Medical support of military operations involves treatment of massive soft tissue wounds, thermal burns, open fractures, blast injuries and traumatic amputations under conditions that are often austere and far from supply lines. Military hospitals, as recently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, are designed and equipped for stabilization and rapid transfer of injured patients back to their home nation. These austere facilities are often tasked with the emergency or long-term treatment of local populations when injured or burned, further stressing the medical resupply system. Pathogens encountered in contemporary wartime practice are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Ionic silver is bactericidal against a broad spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and fungi, has been utilized as a topical antiseptic for over 100 years, and has no known clinically-relevant resistance. Silver-nylon dressings, initially stocked in US military hospitals as a burn dressing, are now finding utility as a universal dressing for all types of combat wounds. Compared to conventional burn dressings, they are easier to transport and store, easier to use, and do not need to be changed as frequently, allowing for conservation of nursing resources. In this literature review, the recent military uses of silver-nylon dressings are examined. The stockpiling and use of silver-nylon as a universal military burn and wound dressing is advocated.
Keywords: Burns; Deployed medicine; Mass casualty; Military medicine; Silver; Trauma; War.