Wound Dressing

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Health care professional changes the dressing of a wound at the emergency room

Wound dressings are placed over the wound in order to protect it from foreign objects that may interfere with the healing process by causing infections.

In addition to preventing infections, certain types of wound dressing are designed with additional objectives in mind. These additional objectives may include:

  • Wound debridement, which is the removal of dead tissue that may have become infected and may interfere with healing. By keeping the wound clean of this debris, wound healing is promoted.;
  • To slow bleeding from an open wound and encourage blood clotting, which is an essential first step in the healing process;
  • To absorb excess blood, plasma or body fluids that may be produced by certain types of wounds. As an example, abdominal wounds tend to bleed heavily and so any dressing that is applied to this type of wound will need to have high absorbency capabilities.

There are several different types of dressing on the market today and each category has its own specific strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the appropriate dressing in any situation is therefore a matter of understanding the priority needs of the situation and which type of dressing is best equipped to meet those needs.

An adequately equipped wound care supplies kit should contain wound dressings from each category. This will allow medical professionals the flexibility to deal with the wide range of wounds that may occur.

In what follows below, we will outline the various types of wound dressing in common use today, together with their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Types Of Wound Dressing

Gauze dressings

These wound dressings are manufactured from woven or non woven materials. They are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

The great strength of these dressings is their versatility. You can apply them to just about any type of wound. They are also relatively inexpensive.

However, they frequently have to be combined with other types of dressing and must be changed frequently. These two factors tend to drive up the total cost of ownership and nullify their cost advantage on an individual dressing basis. In addition, they often adhere to the wound bed, which can retard healing. Further, and probably most importantly, they are not effective at maintaining a moist wound environment. As we will explain below, this is often an essential property for optimal wound healing.

Gauze dressings are a great choice for infected or draining wounds. They are also recommended for wounds requiring packing or frequent dressing changes.

There are many gauze dressings on sale on this site, e.g. the Dermaea Gauze Sponges.

Transparent Dressings

These are usually made from a transparent polyurethane film, which allows health care professionals to continuously monitor the healing progress of chronic wounds without removing the dressing.

In addition to this feature, transparent wound dressings are permeable enough to allow oxygen to penetrate and reach the wound. They also allow moisture vapor to escape to the outside, which is a plus when seeking to keep the wound environment dry. They also conform well to high contoured areas.

The weakness of transparent dressings is their tendency to stick to some types of wounds. Their lack of absorbency.also makes them a poor choice for heavily draining or bleeding wounds.

In summary, these dressings can be used with good results on partial thickness wounds, donor sites, minor burns and some types of pressure ulcer (stages 1 and 2).

Foam Dressings

Unlike gauze and transparent dressings, foam dressings are less likely to stick to delicate wounds. They are also comfortable and highly absorbent, which means they require changing less frequently than gauze, for example.

On the other side of the ledger, these dressings sometimes need to be used with a secondary fixing dressing. Although they generally require less frequent changing, they can cause maceration of wound tissue if not changed frequently enough. Maceration refers to the breakdown of skin tissue due to excessive exposure to moisture.

Foam dressings are a great option for use on pressure ulcers, minor burns, diabetic ulcers, donor sites and venous ulvers.

Hydrocolloid Dressings

The key feature of hydrocolloid dressings is their high absorbency. This makes them an excellent candidate for deplayment on heavily draining wounds. They are equipped with particles that swell into a gel when they encounter wound exudate (i.e. fluids draining from the wound). They also have strong adhesive backings which usually obviates the need for a secondary fixing dressing.

Other pros include strong debridement properties,excellent wound bed insulation and their waterproof construction, which helps them resist possible sources of infection like urine or stool.

However, these dressings can leave a residue on the wound bed that can easily be mistaken for an infection.They are also a poor choice if there is a pre existing wound infection.

These dressings are best suited for burns, pressure ulcers and venous ulcers.

Alginate Dressings

The distinguishing feature of these dressings is their use of seaweed salts. They are highly absorbent and a good choice for wounds with a pre -existing infection. They are non adherent, so will require a secondary fixing dressing, and also have excellent debridement capabilities.

However, they are not suitable for use on dry wounds as they may exacerbate the dryness and cause dessication of the wound bed.

Suitable for use on venous ulcers, tunneling wounds or heavily bleeding wounds.

Composite Dressings

As you might expect, there is also a wide variety of hybrid dressings that combine moisture retentive materials with gauze in order to get “the best of both worlds”.

Suggested Wound Dressing Products


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