Frequently Asked Questions on Hydrogel Dressing


What is a hydrogel dressing?
Hydrogel dressings or hydrated polymer dressings are a special type of wound dressing. Hydrated polymer (hydrogel) dressings, originally developed in the 1950s, contain 90% water in a gel base which helps regulate fluid exchange from the wound surface. Hydrogel dressings are made up of a clear, gel-like substance between two layers of plastic film.

They can be used on skin that is red, tender, sore or weepy. These dressings can sometimes relieve pain by covering exposed nerve endings. They also keep wounds moist. Moist wounds heal more quickly than dry wounds.
What varieties of hydrogel dressings are available in the market?
Amorphous hydrogel: Free-flowing gel, packaged in tubes, foil packets and spray bottles
Impregnated hydrogel: Amorphous hydrogel saturated onto a gauze pad, non-woven sponge ropes and/or strips
Sheet hydrogel: A gel supported by a thin fiber mesh. The dressing can overlap intact skin and generally won't harm it. It is available with and without adhesive borders and can be cut to fit the wound.
What are the benefits of hydrogel dressings?
By providing moisture to the wound, hydrogel dressings create a moist healing environment which promotes granulation, epithelialization and autolytic debridement. The high water content of hydrogel dressings cools the wound, producing pain relief that can last up to six hours. Dressing-change discomfort is also reduced because hydrogels don't adhere to the wound surface. In summary, hydrogel dressings:
  • Are soothing and reduce pain
  • Rehydrate the wound bed
  • Facilitate autolytic debridement
  • Fill in dead space (amorphous and impregnated types)
  • Can be used when infection is present
What are the indications for hydrogel dressings?
Wounds that may benefit from a hydrogel dressing include:
  • Dry or slightly moist wounds
  • Soothing painful wounds
  • Partial- and full-thickness wounds
  • Wounds with granulation tissue, eschar or slough
  • Abrasions or minor burns
  • Radiation skin damage
Are there any disadvantages of hydrogel dressings?
Hydrogel dressings are not recommended for wounds with heavy exudate. In addition:
  • Some require secondary dressing
  • Some are difficult to secure
  • May cause periwound maceration
  • Can dehydrate easily if not covered
What should be the frequency of hydrogel dressing changes?
The frequency of dressing changes varies from daily to every four days depending on specific manufacturer guidelines. Steps to follow during a dressing change:
  1. Wash your hands and put on gloves
  2. Note the date on soiled dressing; then remove it and put it in a trash bag
  3. Remove your gloves, wash your hands and put on new gloves
  4. Clean the wound with normal saline or prescribed cleanser
  5. Pat the tissue surrounding the wound dry with clean gauze
  6. Remove your gloves, wash your hands and put on new gloves
  7. Apply liquid barrier film or moisture barrier ointment to the periwound area to protect the skin from maceration
  8. Apply the dressing
How to apply amorphous hydrogel dressing?
  • Apply the product with a sterile tongue blade or cotton-tipped applicator, spreading it evenly over the wound bed to a thickness of 5 mm (ΒΌ inch)
  • Or, a sterile gauze pad may be saturated with hydrogel and placed on the wound with no overlap onto surrounding skin
  • Insert appropriate packing materials as needed
  • Cover the dressing with a secondary wound dressing which should cover the entire wound bed
How to use gauze impregnated with hydrogel?
  • Place the dressing directly on top of the wound or loosely pack it into the wound bed
  • Cover the dressing with a secondary wound dressing which should cover the entire wound bed
How to apply sheet hydrogel?
  • Use a marker to trace the outline of the wound on the dressing
  • Using clean scissors, cut the hydrogel sheet to the size of the wound
  • Apply the sheet to the wound bed, taking care not to overlap onto intact skin
  • Cover the sheet with a secondary wound dressing which should cover the entire wound bed
  • Dispose of waste in an appropriate container
  • Remove your gloves and discard; then wash your hands
How to remove hydrogel dressing?
  • Wash your hands and put on gloves
  • Gently remove the secondary wound dressing
  • Remove the hydrogel dressing:
  • a. If amorphous hydrogel dressing - Wash away any remaining gel with a wound cleanser or normal saline if necessary
  • b. If hydrogel impregnated gauze or hydrogel sheet - Gently lift one edge of the dressing and peel it back slowly. If the dressing has adhered to the wound surface, saturate the dressing with wound cleanser or normal saline to soften it and then gently remove
  • Check the removed dressing for type, amount, color and consistency of exudate
  • Discard the old dressing in an appropriate container
  • Remove your gloves and discard; then wash your hands