Elements and Compounds

Why is silver nitrate used in cauterization of wounds?

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2007-12-28 08:19:16

= = = Silver Nitrate =

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Silver nitrate is a chemical compound with chemical

formula AgNO3. This nitrate of silver is a light-sensitive

ingredient in photographic film and is a poisonous, corrosive

compound. Silver nitrate crystals can be produced by dissolving

silver in nitric acid and evaporating the solution. The compound

notably stains skin a greyish or black color that is made visible

after exposure to sunlight. Silver nitrate has been used as an

antiseptic, dropped into newborn babies' eyes at birth. This is to

prevent contraction of gonorrhoea or chlamydia from their mother. A

very weak solution is used for this, (about 1%) and there are very

few side effects. Mythically, silver nitrate was used as a method

of killing vampires, with the silver nitrate generally being

injected into a bullet cartridge or used in a hypodermic needle.

Fused silver nitrate, shaped into sticks, was traditionally called

lunar caustic and used as a cauterizing agent. It can also be used

in wound management to 'knock back' over-granulation of tissue in

healing wounds such as ulcers and sinuses. [edit]

Silver nitrate can be used in a medical environment as a

chemical cauterizing agent and medicinal caustic. A typical

applicator is composed of 75% silver nitrate with 25% potassium

nitrate. As the silver nitrate contacts with water (in the blood)

the compound goes into solution forming nitric acid. The acid

subsequently is responsible for the cautery effect. As mentioned

above this will typically result in a black or greyish staining of

the skin. This staining is caused by the accumulation of the silver

and will typically go away as the body rids itself of the mineral.

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