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Wound Care

What is Wound Care?

A wound is a break in the skin caused by an injury (a cut or blow), surgery, or conditions such as diabetes. Wound care refers to the treatment and management of a wound until it heals, addressing the immediate medical needs as well as precautions for the future.

What is a Dressing?

A dressing is a sterile pad or gauze (compress) applied over a wound. The type of dressing used may depend on various factors such as the kind of injury, size, location, and severity.

Types of Dressings

  • Hydrocolloid dressing: Used for burns, liquid emitting or necrotic wounds, and pressure or venous ulcers.
  • Hydrogel dressing: Used for dry or painful or necrotic or infected wounds, second-degree burns, and pressure ulcers.
  • Alginate dressing: Used for wet wounds with high liquid drainage, burns, packing wounds, and venous or higher staged pressure ulcers.
  • Collagen dressing: Used for chronic or stalled or surgical wounds, transplant sites, ulcers, burns, pressure sores, or large injuries.
  • Foam dressing: Used for wounds of varying degrees and severity including those that exhibit odors.
  • Transparent dressing: Used by medical professionals or medical carers.
  • Cloth dressing: Most commonly used dressing for all types of open wounds or broken skin. Suitable for minor injuries such as grazes, cuts, etc.

Purposes of Wound Care and Dressings

The main objectives of wound care and dressings are to:

  • Help reduce pain and prevent infection
  • Decrease purulent wound drainage
  • Provide a clean and dry environment for healing
  • Immobilize, protect and support the wound
  • Ensure healing as fast and effective as possible
  • Apply medication to the wound

Steps involved with Wound Care and Dressings

Typically, wound care and dressings involve:

  • Bleeding control
  • Wound cleansing
  • Actual dressing of wound

Bleeding Control
This is the first and most important step. Bleeding can be stopped with pressure from the hands or with gauze if available or you can wait for the blood to clot (coagulate).

Wound Cleaning
Once bleeding is controlled, the wound is cleansed with mild soap or liquid soap and warm water. The wound needs to be rinsed thoroughly with water to the entire depth from the surface. After the washing, the wound should be pat dried gently with a clean and soft towel.

Hands should be thoroughly washed and dried. Disposable gloves can be worn if available. A dressing that is slightly bigger than the wound to be covered should be used. Holding the dressing at the edges, the dressing should be applied while keeping the fingers away from the part that is going to cover the wound.

Dos and Don’ts of Dressing Wounds

  • Always clean the wound before applying a dressing
  • Leave the wound open if cleaning is not possible
  • Seek medical advice on cleaning and dressing
  • Change the dressing every 12 hours
  • Do not dress a wound with visible infection
  • Do not dress a bleeding wound. Stop the bleeding first before dressing the area.
  • The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • American Association of Hand Surgery
  • American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
  • American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • Virginia Orthopaedic Society, Sentara
  • Sentara
  • Chesapeake Regional Medical Center
  • 5801 Harbour View Blvd
    Suite 200
    Suffolk, VA 23435

    Monday-Friday 8am-5pm

  • 501 Discovery Drive
    Chesapeake, VA 23320


  • 150 Burnett’s Way
    Suite 100
    Suffolk, VA 23434

    Monday-Friday 8am-5pm