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What Is a Hydrogel Wound Dressing?

Gauze may be needed to keep hydrogel in place.
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  • Written By: Christina Whyte
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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Hydrogel wound dressing is a type of synthetic dressing that is particularly good for wounds that need to be kept moist, such as burns or necrotic wounds. Necrotic wounds are wounds with dead and dying tissue that must be removed before healing can effectively take place. Some types of hydrogel wound dressing can clean wounds by removing necrotic and infected tissue from the wound bed. Hydrogel is also used as a wound filler or as a flat dressing. It is available in sheet form, on pads in a variety of shapes, or simply as a gel that can be applied to wounds.

Originally developed in the 1950s, Hydrogel is a cross-linked polymer composed mainly of water. It has many other uses besides wound dressing, particularly in biomedical settings since adverse biological reactions to it are rare. It started being used as a wound dressing after many studies showed the effectiveness and importance of moist wound healing. Hydrogel is such an important tool in wound treatment because it helps to maintain an optimum hydration balance in the wound area. It also promotes the body's own sloughing of dead tissue, a process called autolytic debridement.

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Besides wound hydration, one of the main advantages of hydrogel wound dressing, is that hydrogel dressing is that it doesn't stick to wounds. This means that it can be removed during dressing changes without damaging the wound further or disrupting healing. This is particularly useful for burns and other types of open or chronic wounds. Patients may be more likely to accept and comply with hydrogel dressings because it doesn't stick, which can mean much less pain during dressing changes. Due to the high water content and gel-consistency, hydrogel also feels cooling and soothing on the wounded area.

There are a few disadvantages to hydrogel wound dressing, such as a probable need for a secondary dressing like gauze to keep the hydrogel in place, which may necessitate two dressing changing schedules. Proper wound treatment also requires flexibility and adapting the dressing to suit the wound. Other types of wound dressing may be more appropriate than hydrogel for certain types of wounds. Hydrogel wound dressing is not suitable for wounds that are moderately to highly exudative - wounds that are seeping a great deal of plasma, blood cells, and platelets. This is because it is not as absorbent as some other wound dressings, although hydrogel is acceptably absorbent for mildly exudative wounds.

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croydon
Post 3

@umbra21 - I've read about those clear plastic dressings as well. They actually originated in one of the world wars when the nurses realized the only sterile material available to them was the plastic wrappers of cigarette packaging.

It was actually pretty sophisticated for the time, although I'm sure this kind of hydro gel dressing is much better.

It sounds like it would be much less painful than almost anything else they would traditionally put into that kind of wound. I know with burns they often had a difficult choice between binding them to protect them from infection or leaving them free in the air so that they could heal more effectively.

This new kind of dressing gives them a much better third option, which hopefully will make it more likely for people to survive severe burns. Unfortunately, burns are still one of the most dangerous wounds you can get. If they cover too much of your body, you're very likely to die.

umbra21
Post 2

Hydrogel dressing seems to be the next step in dressings from one I read about a while ago. which was clear plastic dressings.

It didn't make sense to me at first, as I think of dressings as something which absorbs the fluids that come from the wound.

But really, all they are is something to protect the wound, and being absorbent is actually a disadvantage, especially if the wound is scabbing over, since it means the bandaging will stick to the wound.

This dressing obviously won't do that, and if it is antiseptic, they don't have to worry about the fact that it might catch airborne particles or anything like that either.

Plus, just like the clear plastic dressing, they'll be able to see the wound through it, which means they don't have to remove it every time they need a look, which is a good thing as well.

anon133296
Post 1

Thank you. Was informative.

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