Debridement of Sulfur Mustard Skin Burns: A Comparison of Three Methods.
: Sulfur mustard burns are characterized by delayed symptoms, slow healing, and recurrence after closure. Incomplete debridement at the level of the basement membrane is the postulated cause. Graham pioneered laser debridement of mustard burns. For field or mass-casualty use, saline wet-to-wet or antibiotic-soak debridement is more practical. In this study, we compared laser, saline, and antibiotic debridement in a porcine model of deep partial thickness injury. Deep dermal sulfur mustard burns were produced in 18 anesthetized Gottingen minipigs using 10 uL saturated vapor cap exposure time of 90 minutes. Debridement was started 48 hours post injury and consisted of a single laser treatment; 5 days of 5% aqueous mafenide acetate wet-to-wet dressings; or 7 to 12 days of saline wet-to-wet dressings. Wounds were treated with daily silver sulfadiazine for 30 days, and then assessed by histopathology, silver ion analysis, colorimetry and evaporimetry. All wounds healed well with no sign of infection. Antibiotic debridement showed no advantage over saline debridement. There were no significant differences between groups for colorimetry or evaporimetry. Histopathology was graded on a mustard-specific scale of 1-15 where higher values indicate better healing. Mean histology scores were 13.6 for laser, 13.9 for mafenide and 14.3 for saline. Saline debridement statistically outperformed laser (p<0.05), but required the longest debridement time. Laser debridement had the benefit of requiring a single treatment rather than daily dressing changes, significantly decreasing need for wound-care and personnel resources. Development of a ruggedized laser for field use is a countermeasures priority.