Topical silver for preventing wound infection

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17;(3):CD006478. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006478.pub2.


Background: Silver-containing treatments are popular and used in wound treatments to combat a broad spectrum of pathogens, but evidence of their effectiveness in preventing wound infection or promoting healing is lacking.

Objectives: To establish the effects of silver-containing wound dressings and topical agents in preventing wound infection and healing of wounds.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (6 May 2009); The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2009 Issue 2); Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to April Week 4 2009); Ovid EMBASE (1980 to 2009 Week 18); EBSCO CINAHL (1982 to April Week 4 2009) and Digital Dissertations (to May 2009) for relevant trials. We contacted manufacturers and distributors.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing silver-containing wound dressings and topical agents with silver-containing and non silver-containing comparators on uninfected wounds.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently selected trials, assessed risk of bias, and extracted data.

Main results: We identified 26 RCTs (2066 patients). Heterogeneity of treatments and outcomes precluded meta-analysis. We grouped results according to wound type, and silver preparation.BurnsThirteen trials compared topical silver (in a variety of formulations - including silver sulphadiazine (SSD) cream) with non-silver dressings. One trial showed fewer infections with silver nitrate when compared with a non-silver dressing, but three trials showed significantly more infection with SSD than with the non-silver dressing.Six trials compared SSD cream with silver-containing dressings. One showed significantly fewer infections with the silver-containing dressing (Hydron AgSD) compared with SSD, the remaining five found no evidence of a difference.One trial compared two silver-containing dressings, and showed a significantly lower infection rate with silver-coated gauze (Acticoat(R)) than with silver nitrate gauze.Other woundsSix trials compared SSD/silver-containing dressings with non-silver dressings (nine dressings in total). Most comparisons (seven) found no significant differences in infection rates; one trial in a variety of wounds exhibited significantly fewer infections with SSD/hydrocolloid, but another, in acute wounds, found significantly more infections with SSD. Only one comparison showed a significant reduction in healing time associated with a silver-containing hydrofibre dressing in diabetic foot ulcers.

Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to establish whether silver-containing dressings or topical agents promote wound healing or prevent wound infection; some poor quality evidence for SSD suggests the opposite.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Bandages
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Silver Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Silver Nitrate / therapeutic use
  • Silver Sulfadiazine / therapeutic use
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Silver Compounds
  • Silver Nitrate
  • Silver Sulfadiazine