Keeping body and soul together with super glue
September 21, 2012 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have any recommendations for using "super glue" instead of bandages on small, routine wounds?

After I had laparoscopic surgery last month, they closed the incisions with some medical version of Krazy Glue. I was very impressed with how this worked -- I had no worries about allergic reactions to adhesives (which usually bother me); pain-free, almost itchless healing; and no fuss at all about keeping the wounds extra clean or changing bandages. The after-care instructions were, just ignore it until the glue falls off, which will happen automatically as the skin heals. Brilliant.

I've used regular "super glue" for fingertip skin cracks (at doctor's suggestion), and the "liquid bandage" products seem to be about the same thing. But, those things are not very effective -- they need to be re-applied at least twice/day. I see that the surgical-grade glues are stunningly expensive, but there seem to be veterinary versions available at more reasonable cost.

What specific types or brands are safe and effective (and reasonably priced)? Obviously any wound needs to cleaned well before being glued, but are there any other procedures or precautions I should be aware of? Would it be a bad idea to keep the glue on long term on a few vulnerable areas of my fingertips that crack and peel all the time? Is there any reason why a dab of glue wouldn't be a good alternative to a band-aid after a needle-stick for a blood test?
posted by Corvid to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The medical glues are not the same substance as standard cyanoacrylate glues, though they are in the same category. The medical versions are less irritating and non-toxic. I imagine they are also more pure.

Another issue is that the glue isn't applied the way you might think (i.e. putting glue on one side of the cut and pushing the sides together). Instead, the two sides are pushed together and glue is applied to the top.
posted by jedicus at 5:31 PM on September 21, 2012

I've used 3M VetBond which is about $20 for 3ml at Amazon, but that's a wee resealable bottle not a one-use popper like Dermabond.
posted by nicwolff at 5:55 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there any reason why a dab of glue wouldn't be a good alternative

Because regular Krazy Glue stings in cuts like you don't wanna know what.
posted by jamaro at 6:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The medical versions are butyl- or octyl-cyanoacrylate instead of the methyl-cyanoacrylate that garden-variety superglue is. They're a little more flexible in their solid state, which is usually convenient; and as I understand it methyl-cyanoacrylate has some toxic breakdown products. OTOH, from what medical info I've found, this only seems to be considered a possible problem when it's being used in actual surgery, on living tissue. As far as I've been able to tell, using normal superglue on your skin should be just as safe as using the medical variety, even if some minuscule amount leaks down into the cut.

(I had the same questions as you do a few years ago when I discovered how well superglue works on paper cuts.)
posted by hattifattener at 6:18 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are several other precautions to be aware of with glue. Some might sound obvious but I'll list them anyway.

For abrasions and very minor/superficial wounds
- You cannot apply antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin or Bacitracin) to a wound you've used tissue glue on. The ointment will dissolve the glue (this can be useful knowledge if you're trying to get glue OFF your skin for some reason, too)
- Don't use glue anywhere near your eye. Trust me, if it so much as touches an eyelash you will regret it for a very long time.

For larger wounds.... they probably should be evaluated by a professional, and:
- Don't use glue on a gaping wound. The edges have to be well approximated.
- Don't use glue on high tension areas of your body. Glue is particularly good for wounds on the face or the torso, for example. Generally it is not recommended to be used over joints, because when you flex or extend the joint, you'll wear the glue off too fast and the wound won't heal well. If you have a wound deep enough over a joint that it needs to be repaired (i.e. you're not just trying to cover up a superficial wound), then a physician should evaluate it for stitches.
- Fingers are not the ideal place to use the glue for any significant wound. If it's just a very superficial wound then it's not a big deal, but if you're actually trying to repair a laceration, the glue will wear off too soon if you're putting it on fingers, because they move around a lot and the glue is exposed to friction and so forth. If you get stitches in a finger they usually have to stay in for a longer time period, like somewhere from 7-14 days depending on the extent of the injury.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I may be misreading the last part of your question, but if you're open to glue alternatives, try Tegaderm or a similar breathable transparent dressing. It heals road rash, burns, scrapes and irritating little cuts on your fingers ridiculously quickly, and it holds up to water exposure pretty well.

You said that you're sensitive to adhesives, but from what I've heard, Tegadem is less likely to cause irritation than other adhesives.
posted by maudlin at 7:30 PM on September 21, 2012

And be very careful when applying the glue. A friend tried to fix a cut in her eyebrow late one night, glued her finger to her face and couldn't find anything at home to get it off (good to know about the neosporin) and had to make a trip to the ED.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 8:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

STAAB, good point, and I feel I should add that the ointment approach is not easy. I have had to try to unstick eyelashes with cyanoacrylate glue on them using ointment and it isn't a quick antidote - I kept reapplying for lord knows how long until the patient got sick of it and said he'd keep working on it at home. For the eye we use a specific antibiotic ointment that is made to be used in eyes, also, another clarification. For an exposure on the finger though you could use any petroleum based product like petroleum jelly, or also acetone apparently works as a glue antidote too.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:39 PM on September 21, 2012

couldn't find anything at home to get it off (good to know about the neosporin)

FWIW, acetone-based nail polish remover is another thing you might happen to have around around the house if you need to soften some superglue. Acetone's also sometimes sold in larger cans as paint remover/thinner.
posted by hattifattener at 2:53 AM on September 22, 2012

Thanks all -- exactly the sort of good advice I was hoping for. I'm going to (carefully) try some of veterinary version next time the need arises.

As for the stuff staying on long enough to let the wound heal -- it's been > 6 weeks, and a bit of the glue on the largest of my incisions is still there, quietly doing its job. Of course that's on the torso, so it's an easy spot, and it's the bajillion dollar medical version. If I have a wound serious enough to need more than a week to heal, a doctor will be dealing with it, not me. I'm hoping that the vet version will last for a few days at least before needing to be reapplied.

The Tegaderm dressing looks great, but it looks like it probably has the same type of adhesive that's on those transparent patches that they put over IVs these days -- that stuff breaks down my skin like acetone melts KrazyGlue. The area around the IV site left me with a nastier wound than the incisions did, even though the offending adhesive was on my skin for <12 hours.
posted by Corvid at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2012

I remember reading about these in the news--the thing that impressed me the most is that some doctors were doing it wrong and getting some of the glue into the wound. The prevented healing and led to infections.
posted by eye of newt at 10:56 PM on September 22, 2012

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