Patterns of use of topical skin adhesives in the emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Jun;17(6):670-2. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00754.x. Epub 2010 May 14.


Objectives: The objective was to determine patterns of use of topical skin adhesives (TSA) for laceration repair. The authors hypothesized that TSA use would be more common in children and facial lacerations.

Methods: This was a structured retrospective chart review. The setting was a suburban, university-based emergency department (ED) with an emergency medicine (EM) residency; the annual census is 85,000 visits. Charts from consecutive patients presenting with lacerations in the summer of 2008 (June 2008 through August 2008) were reviewed. Demographic, clinical, and wound characteristics were extracted from electronic medical records by trained investigators using structured data collection forms. Characteristics of lacerations repaired with TSA or other closure devices were compared with bivariate and multivariate analyses using odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: A total of 755 patients presented to the ED with lacerations over the study period, of whom primary closure was used in 667; nine were excluded because the method of closure was unknown. The most common methods of laceration closure were sutures (485), adhesives (88), and staples (86). Adhesives were used to close 27% of facial lacerations, compared to 4% of all other body locations (difference = 23%, 95% CI = 18% to 29%), and in 20% of pediatric versus 8% of adult lacerations (difference = 13%, 95% CI = 7% to 18%). Adjustment for other potential patient and wound characteristics showed that adhesives were more likely to be used to close facial lacerations (OR = 10.0 CI, 95% CI = 5.5 to 18.0) and lacerations in children (OR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.1 to 3.0) and less likely to be used as laceration length increased (OR = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4 to 0.8). Adhesive use was not statistically associated with patient sex or race, laceration edges or shape, or the need for deep sutures. Forty-three percent of adhesive wounds were closed with no anesthetic, and a topical agent was used in another 48%. In contrast, a local anesthetic agent was injected in 87% of sutured wounds (p < 0.001) and 73% of stapled wounds (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Topical skin adhesives are used more often for children, facial lacerations, and short lacerations. Use of adhesives may improve patient comfort as need for injecting a local anesthetic is reduced.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Cyanoacrylates / therapeutic use*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Facial Injuries / surgery
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sutures
  • Tissue Adhesives / therapeutic use*
  • Wound Healing


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Cyanoacrylates
  • Tissue Adhesives
  • octylcyanoacrylate
  • octyl 2-cyanoacrylate