Outpatient wound preparation and care: A national survey

John M. Howell, Carey D. Chisholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To sample the practice styles of emergency physicians caring for acute traumatic wounds. Design: Written survey. Setting: US emergency departments obtained from the American College of Emergency Physicians mailing list. Subjects: Randomly selected ACEP members. Main results: One hundred fifty-one of 285 (53%) survey mailings were returned. Eighty-six percent of respondents were primarily clinicians, and the majority (61.6%) worked in EDs with annual patient visits between 21,000 and 50,000. The majority of respondents (64.2%) were certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. Nineteen percent managed wounds based on provider preference despite the existence of written wound management protocols. We identified a variety of practices that are contrary to current literature and textbook recommendations. Fifty-eight (38%) soaked wounds, whereas 21% used either 10% povidone iodine or hydrogen peroxide to cleanse wounds. One hundred one (67%) scrubbed the entire wound surface using, among other methods, cotton gauze (59%) or a coarse, bristle-laden sponge (38%). Forty (27%) irrigated wounds using techniques that have not been proven to deliver the 5 to 8 psi necessary for adequate tissue cleansing. Delayed primary closure, a treatment option for lacerations at increased risk for infection, was infrequently or never practiced by 76% of respondents. All respondents administered IV antimicrobials at least occasionally for simple outpatient lacerations. Conclusion: Methods of preparing, treating, and following outpatient wounds vary among emergency physicians, and these results support the idea that no de facto standard of care exists for this clinical problem. Outpatient wound care techniques routinely practiced lie, soaking, scrubbing, use of full-strength hydrogen peroxide or full-strength povidone iodine) may be harmful based on limited animal and human research, whereas other proven techniques lie, delayed primary closure) are infrequently practiced by many emergency physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)976-981
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1992


  • outpatient
  • wounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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