Surgery: Antiseptic Sutures

The operation may be a complete success, the surgeon may do a superb piece of needlework with sterile sutures, yet somehow the wound may still become infected just where the stitches were placed. Lord Lister, father of antisepsis and asepsis, knew this almost a century ago, and tried soaking his sutures in phenol (carbolic acid) to make them active as germ killers. But the effect wore off too soon. Surprisingly, even modern-day stainless steel sutures are almost as likely to be the site of an infection a few days after an operation.

Last week surgeons at New York's Downstate Medical...

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