Wound Dressing and its Role in Recovery

Caring for your wound is elementary if the healing has to be quick. Recovery depends on a number of factors and so can be complex. Important ones are age and general health of the individual. If the body is young then healing is faster. Age can slow down the repair process and certain illnesses, like diabetes, may negatively impact it, too.

However, one element which plays a significant role in the entire proceedings is the wound care dressing. But which one to select? The correct choice is key. This will depend upon the wound type because each has unique attributes which play a crucial part during dressing selection.

For all this, it is important to make an assessment of the wound, know the conditions that affect it and then learn how to manage it with the right wound dressing type.

Wound assessment

How to assess a wound? How will you know what type it is? Your doctor or caregiver will be doing this for you but you must also be aware of the factors. For this you need to check out the following:

  • Wound history

  • Size

  • Location

  • How deep

  • Whether normal or chronic

  • Wound bed condition

Factors that promote healing

Once the wound has been assessed and its status identified, we need to look at the broad factors that impact wound healing positively. Overall, the following need to be looked into for a speedy recovery:

  • Removal of dead tissues

  • Treating infections and inflammation

  • Prevention of bacterial overgrowth

  • Managing exudate

  • Keeping wound surface moist

  • Keeping proper fluid balance

  • Keeping normal temperature on wound bed

  • Keeping wound vascularized

Wound type

We generally consider a wound to be a lesion – whether minor or severe. But clinically, wounds are classified into different types. Of these five are basic. They are:

  • Abrasion: Outer layer of skin is scraped off causing superficial damage

  • Laceration: Tearing of tissues causing a cut in skin or flesh

  • Incision: Clean cut into the skin usually caused by a sharp object

  • Avulsion: Skin is torn away from the tissues beneath it

  • Puncture: A wound more deep and less wide caused by penetration of a sharp object

Caring for the wound

Managing your wound and monitoring it is the first step towards healing. Evaluate the wound bed. If the area is red or pink it means the environment is conducive to healing and it is on the path to recovery. If the wound is black or yellow it means there is dead or necrotic skin on and around the wound site and this could lead to infections thus delaying healing. The dead tissues and slough have to be removed.

Removal of dead tissues, also called debridement, can be done either surgically or through autolytic debridement. The latter involves application of a solution or dressing

Signs of infections

Wounds, especially severe ones, are not easy to deal with and require close attention. The biggest challenge is wound infection. Infection can set in without a warning and is difficult to rid of. Therefore, the one who is managing the wound is always on the alert for signs of infection. These include:

  • Pain

  • Redness and swelling of skin

  • Fever and chills

  • Drainage of blood or pus from wound site

  • Blisters around wound site

Role of a dressing

A dressing deals with the wound in certain ways. Ideally, it should:

  • Provide a moist environment

  • Promote healing

  • Absorb excess exudate

  • Be easy to apply and remove

  • Eliminate foul odor

  • Reduce pain

  • Be antimicrobial or antifungal

  • Be non-adherent

Wound traits

Remember, dressings do not directly heal wounds. They just create the environment for healing. They tackle the elements that can prevent and delay recovery. Therefore, using the correct dressing will set up the right conditions. And this choice will depend on the wound characteristics.

An expert’s help is required in the selection and he will base this on the wound type and its healing status– whether infected, granulating or necrotic.

Types of dressings

There are several types of wound dressings each with distinctive traits. You cannot pick the type suitable for you without advice from your doctor or caregiver. But it is important to know about the dressing that is used for you.

The most commonly-used ones are:

Hydrogel dressing: It has high moisture content, is non-adherent and soothing. It is good for dry, necrotic wounds and does not require much cleaning in between dressing change.

Hydrocolloid dressing: Opaque and adhesive wafer type dressing for light-to-moderate exudate. It does not require frequent changes and thus promotes faster healing. Adheres to the surrounding skin and not to the wound.

Transparent/Film dressing: Clear, breathable and waterproof dressing, it is ideal for protecting wounds and IV catheter sites. Sterile on the site next to skin; makes wound monitoring easy.

Alginate dressing: Natural, biodegradable dressing made from seaweed and suitable for heavy exudate. Its water-soluble gelatinous properties allow large amounts of exudates to be absorbed without causing saturation.

Foam dressing: Made from hydrophilic polyurethane foam which does not require frequent dressing change. It is ideal for heavy exudates when drainage is at the peak. Non-adherent and non-linting.

Silicone dressing: Dressing is coated with soft silicone layer and does not stick to the moist wound bed. Suitable for patients with sensitive skin and for managing existing and new hypertrophic scars.

Odor absorbent dressing: Designed for infected malodorous wounds. It gets rid of odor-causing volatile bacteria released from surgical and gangrenous wounds as well as leg ulcers and pressure sores.

Non-adherent dressing: Suitable for sensitive or fragile skin, this dressing can be placed directly on the wound site. Conforms to it easily and can be removed without much trauma.

Composite dressing: Stands out for its multi-layered properties with each layer displaying a distinctive quality. Designed for low-to-moderate exudate and can be left on for a long time. Hence is cost effective.

Antimicrobial dressing: It is incorporated with an antiseptic agent and is ideal because of its role in prevention and handling of wound infection. Easy to apply, requires few dressing changes.

Collagen dressing: It stimulates new tissue growth and helps in the healing of necrotic wounds, skin grafts and second-degree burns. Growth of new collagen at wound site speeds up healing.

Catheter/IV dressing: Designed to prevent bacterial infection from occurring on catheter sites, cuts down on bacterial colonization growth. Allows for longer wear time.

Honey dressing: Has a strong antimicrobial action thus treating and preventing infections. Manuka honey dressings have very high antibacterial activity.

Silver dressing: It is ideal for deep, cavity wounds with heavy exudates and at risk of infection. Brings down moisture content and promotes faster closure.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are several other types of dressings available. The list includes topical wound dressings, iodine dressings, dressings for burns, hydrofiber dressings, hydrocellular dressings, gauze dressings, Una Boot dressings and absorbent dressings.

All the above have specific roles in wound healing and are unique in their own ways. So before settling on a dressing, ensure the one you buy is appropriate.