It is no secret that a well-stocked on-call bag is one of the keys to providing inpatient care as a dermatology resident. Beyond the basic items that should never be left at home, there are some lesser-known tools that I have learned about from my book- and street-smart attendings and co-residents in the Department of Dermatology at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center (referred to here as Downstate). Here are our top 4 items to pack the next time you are on call. (Bonus: you will find them helpful in clinic, too.)
Item 1: WoundSeal Powder
The most valuable player in my on-call bag, WoundSeal Powder (Biolife) is an over-the-counter hemostatic agent that I learned about from Daniel M. Siegel, MD, MS, a Mohs surgeon at Downstate and former president of the American Academy of Dermatology. The powder consists of a hydrophilic polymer and potassium ferrate.1 When poured over a bleeding wound and pressed in place (eg, with a sterile cotton-tipped swab), the hydrophilic polymer absorbs plasma while the iron in potassium ferrate agglomerates blood solids. The result is a scablike seal that is safe to leave in place until the wound has healed.1
Since Dr. Siegel introduced WoundSeal to Downstate about a decade ago, it has become our department’s go-to hemostatic agent for most punch biopsies performed in the inpatient setting. In our experience, achieving hemostasis in the hospital usually is easier, safer, and faster with WoundSeal than suture. Furthermore, using WoundSeal eliminates the need for patients to follow up for suture removal. From a practical perspective, WoundSeal works best when the biopsy defect is positioned parallel to the ground so the powder can be poured directly over and into the defect. From a cosmetic perspective, we have found that WoundSeal and suture have similar outcomes when used for punch biopsies up to 4 mm in size on the trunk and extremities in both adult and pediatric patients. Working with other dermatology attendings such as Sharon A. Glick, MD; Eve Lowenstein, MD, PhD; and Jeannette Jakus, MD, MBA, I also have found WoundSeal helpful when taking care of suture-phobic children or patients with lesions that are less amenable to suture, such as an ulcer or indurated plaque.
Item 2: Purple Surgical Marker
Another tip I have learned from Drs. Siegel and Jakus: If you are ever in a bind for a topical antibacterial or antifungal agent, look no further than a sterile purple surgical marker. These markers are a surprising source of gentian violet, the same purple dye that is the basis of Gram staining and sold as an over-the-counter antiseptic in 1% to 2% concentrations. Purple surgical markers, on the other hand, are 2.5% to 10% gentian violet.2