BY A. W. MAYO ROBSON, F.R.C.S.,
Honorary Surgeon, Leeds General Infirmary; and Lecturer on Practical Surgery
at the Yorkshire College.
A PERFECT antiseptic for surgical purposes has yet to be found. It must be at the same time a strong germicide, non-poisonous, unirritating to the skin or to the tissues, inodorous, non-volatile, not destroyed by oxidation, non-corrosive to steel instruments, non-injurious to sponges, and inexpensive. In ” salufer ” (silicofluoride of sodium) we have a substance which would seem to fulfil most of these conditions. Mr. W. Thomson, F.R.S.Edin., read a paper before the British Association at Manchester last year in which he explained the results of certain experiments he had made with respect to the antiseptic properties of some of the fluorine compounds. He had tried the effects, on flour paste and on meat chopped into small pieces and mixed with water, of a very large number of chemical compounds, and had found that those which had the most remarkable antiseptic properties were the compounds of fluorine, the neutral fluorides of sodium, potassium, and ammonium, and their fluosilicates. Fluosilicate of soda he found to be the best adapted for use as an antiseptic, it being non-poisonous, inodorous, and sparingly soluble in water. As it had only a very slightly saline taste, he said it might be employed in preserving food without communicating any taste to it. Mr. Thomson stated that a saturated solution which contained only 0.61 per cent. possessed greater antiseptic power for animal tissue than 1 in 500 perchloride of mercury solution.
For general surgical purposes I have been very well satisfied with perchloride of mercury, which is a most efficient antiseptic, and which is so very conveniently carried in the form of powders, each containing five grains of perchloride and five grains of salammoniac, which quantity, dissolved in a pint of water, makes a 1 in 2,000 solution; but it has the great disadvantages of roughening and cracking the hands, of corroding steel instruments, and of being poisonous. Hence it is dangerous for syringing out large cavities-for example, psoas abscess; for washing out serous sacs -for example, peritoneum and pleura- or for irrigating the interior of the uterus after gynaecological operations or in obstetric practice…