The University Record, June 11, 1997

Super new glue is a cut above stitches

By Pete Barkey
Medical Center Public Relations

Remember all those warnings about "crazy-gluing" your fingers together? If a Medical Center physician has his way, emergency rooms all over the United States will be using something similar in place of stitches.

James Quinn, clinical assistant professor, has completed an extensive study of a skin adhesive that takes the place of sutures in closing wounds. The study was published in the May 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The glue, called octylcyanoacrylate tissue adhesive, is awaiting final FDA approval. Quinn found in clinical studies that the glue is less painful to use, quicker to apply than sutures and produces excellent cosmetic results.

The adhesive is similar to crazy glue and some other skin adhesives used in Canada and Europe, but, according to Quinn, it is stronger, more flexible and less toxic. It works by simply squeezing the wound together and applying the glue on top, essentially forming a bridge. It can be used practically anywhere on the body except the hands, feet and around mucous membranes such as the lips. The glue does not have to be removed; it simply wears away as skin cells are sloughed off.

Quinn studied 130 Canadian patients, half of whom were treated with the new skin adhesive while the other half received standard sutures. Quinn says the glue is great for treating children and others who are afraid of needles since it is a virtually pain-free procedure.

"It's not uncommon to have to sedate children in order to repair relatively small wounds. Now we won't have to," he says.

The glue also saved valuable time in the emergency room. The average time to close a wound with the tissue adhesive was three and one-half minutes, while it took doctors 12.5 minutes on average to stitch up a cut.

Finally, a long-term check of both study groups found no appreciable cosmetic differences between wounds closed with the new adhesive and those repaired by conventional stitching.

Another major benefit discovered by Quinn and his colleagues from the University of Ottawa is that infection can be significantly reduced by using the new skin adhesive. In a separate study presented May 19 at the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine in Washington, D.C., Quinn reported that sutured wounds were three times more likely to become infected compared with wounds closed by the new skin adhesive.

The glue is currently applied only on lacerations, but future uses could include burns and abrasions. "This is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the adhesive may be used," Quinn says.