How to Choose the Best Wound Care Dressing

by Jenny Swain, EVP of Sales and Clinical Initiatives, JMeds

Wound Care Dressing Choice Simplified

The goal of this article is to simplify the wound dressings selection process by basing wound dressings on the different categories of dressing they fall under, and the amount of drainage from the wound.

The idea around dressing selection equates to several life lessons that I have learned along the way and attempt to practice daily. These life lessons are applicable more today than ever.

Wound Care - JMeds

Wound Care Lesson #1: Keep it Simple

With 20 years of wound care experience, one thing I try to stick to in wound care is the idea of ‘keeping it simple.’ In a world that continues to be more and more complicated and with well over 6,000 dressings on the market, ‘keeping it simple’ can sometimes seem impossible.
However, the truth is if you cut out all the noise and truly narrow in on the goals that you are trying to accomplish, the options available will drastically decrease, making the options in front of you more manageable and not as overwhelming. We will apply this principle by narrowing down these over 6,000 dressings to just six categories! This brings me to Wound Care Lesson #2.

Wound Care Lesson #2: Set Goals

What is your goal? When you know your goal, you can break down the steps needed to accomplish it. This too simplifies accomplishing your goal and makes accomplishing the goal more obtainable. The same applies for wound dressing selection. With considering which dressing to choose for a wound a major factor in dressing selection is the amount of wound drainage. Make sure you assess the wound drainage before deciding on a dressing.

Defining wound drainage:
1. No drainage (dry, none)
2. Slightly moist (scant, minimum exudate)
3. ‘Wet’ (moderate exudate) – Excess exudate for the size and depth of the particular wound width.
4. ‘Very wet’ (heavy exudate) – Heavy and excessive exudate for the size and depth of the particular wound.

The goal for every wound is optimal moisture. You don’t want the wound to be ‘too wet’ or ‘too dry’. The wound bed should be ‘slightly moist’ as slight moisture allows for cell growth. A dry cell is a dead cell and thus delays the healing process. On the opposite end of the spectrum if the wound is too wet there are destructive properties in the wound exudate that will delay wound healing as well as cause wound maceration. In addition, excess drainage likely means some critical colonization or greater risk of bacteria occurring in the wound bed.

To assist with documenting the amount of wound drainage see the below Chart from Bates-Jensen

JMeds image
Now that you have defined the drainage of your wound, the next step is to divide the over 6,000 dressing types into six categories. Below are the  six categories of dressings that are the most popular:
  1. Transparent Film: Clear thin film dressing often used on IV sites, skin tears or small dry scantly draining wounds.
  2. Hydrocolloid: They contain gel-forming agents (a gelatin or sodium carboxymethylcellulose).
  3. Foam: Made of a specialized blend of semipermeable polyurethane, these dressings allow moisture to enter the wound while preventing the spread of bacteria and other harmful particles.
  4. Hydrogel: Hydrogels are made of 90 percent water. They help control the exchange of fluids within the wound site.
  5. Alginate/ Durafiber: Alginate dressings are actually derived from a certain kind of seaweed. Alginate dressings have an especially high rate of absorbency, which helps to reduce the risk of bacterial infection and drainage and other secretions.
  6. Collagen: These dressings are derived from animal tissue – like that from cows and pigs – and their biological comparability helps bolster both tissue growth and fibroblast production.

Dressing Selection Based on Drainage of Wound AND Wound Dressing Category

NOTE: If signs and symptoms of infection are observed, notify your MD or Wound Care Specialist as antimicrobial and other specialty dressings along with antibiotics may need to be ordered.

  • Common signs and symptoms are infections are: erythema (redness), warmth, edema (swelling), pain and increased/ excess exudate.

At first glance choosing the proper wound dressing might be overwhelming. If you keep these two life tips in mind each time you are tasked with choosing a dressing, you will alleviate the stress and make an informed, and correct dressing decision.

Managing supplies for all of your residents and patients can be expensive and an administrative headache. JMeds makes wound care management simple and affordable with our wound care program.

Get a Genadyne NPWT pump and the supplies you need to treat your residents and patients while making the process as comfortable as possible. We partner with the best in the industry so your residents and patients can get the best care.

  • Genadyne XLR8 NPWT Pump
  • Smith and Nephew Wound Care Dressings
  • Specialty Mattresses for Prevention

Contact Us

133 Nursery Lane
Fort Worth, Texas 76114
877.790.5994

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