First use of Cyanoacrylate Adhesive for Surgical Usage

Famously known as ‘Super Glue’, ‘Instant Glue’, ‘Crazy Glue’ and ‘Power Glue’ is a very well know adhesive material used largely for household application. However, this material has applications in other areas also, such as electronics, wood working, cosmetics and even forensics! Very few people would be unaware of this amazing material. In this blog post lets look into the first use of cyanoacrylate adhesive for surgical usage.

Dr. Harry Coover and Eastman 910


The material was a serendipitous discovery by Dr. Harry W. Coover during World War II (1939 – 1945), when working in Kodak Research Laboratories trying to make an optically transparent plastic. However, the same was discarded as a useless material then, and it was only in 1951 that the material was re-looked into.

First cyanoacrylate based product

First ‘Super Glue’ was produced and marketed by the Tennessee Eastman Laboratory in 1958, named as Eastman 910.


Glue solution provided in the bottles is actually only monomer with some added additives. It polymerizes in the presence of water (including atmospheric moisture, surface adsorbed water etc) forming poly(cyanoacrylate.) An intermediate ion is produced by the reaction of cyanoacrylate with water; which further reacts with more of cyanoacrylate molecules, creating a high molecular weight polymer chain. The reaction mechanism is provided below:

Cyanoacrylate reaction mechanism

Major cyanoacrylate monomers and their brief applications

  • Methyl cyanoacrylate (C5H5NO2) is an industrial adhesive material largely used in bonding metals
  • Ethyl cyanoacrylate (C6H7NO2) is a general purpose industrial adhesive used for bonding metals, plastics and rubbers
  • Butyl cyanoacrylate (C8H11NO2) is used as a surgical adhesive due to its very less irritating vapours compared to lower cyanoacrylates
  • Octyl cyanoacrylate (C12H19NO2) is also used in surgical applications but has higher level of flexibility compared to any of the above mentioned cyanoacrylate adhesive types

Their chemical structures are:

Methyl cyanoacrylate, Ethyl cyanoacrylate, Buty cyanoacrylate, Octyl cyanoacrylate

Market of cyanoacrylate adhesives

  • Global market values in:
    • 2020: 240 million USD
    • 2027 estimate: 290 million USD
  • CAGR: approx. 3%
  • Major Players:
    • 3M
    • Henkel
    • Permabond
    • ITW
    • Bostik
  • Major applications:
    • Automobiles
    • Aerospace
    • Defense
    • Furniture
    • Machinery
    • Consumer goods

First use of Cyanoacrylate Adhesive for Medical Usage

  • Study conducted by: Eastman, Kodak and Ethicon
  • Application for FDA approval: 1964 by Eastman to be used to seal wounds
  • First surgical use: Vietnam war in 1966 as disposable sprays
  • 1998: Octyl cyanoacrylate received FDA approval for surgical usage
  • Benefits:
    • Quick
    • Less painful
    • No requirement of conventional surgical tools
    • Barrier to dirt and air
    • Reduced scarring
    • Stays on the place of application unlike surgical tapes which gets displaced easily from the place of wound closure
  • Not found beneficial for:
    • Deep wounds
    • Puncture type of wounds
    • Animal bites
    • Skin burns
    • Injuries on eyes, lips, or genitals
    • Wounds which are contaminated

Video below shows how cyanoacrylate adhesive is used for wound closure application

Below is the link to a very interesting research paper detailing a study (spanning eight years) of usage of octyl cyanoacrylate adhesive for skin closure application.

Summarized Life History and Rare Interview of Harry Coover

Dear Readers, do go through the above content – First use of Cyanoacrylate Adhesive for Surgical Usage, and let me know your viewpoints in the Comments section.

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