Wet-to-Dry Dressings: Here We Go Again

 

Wet-to-Dry dressingsIn the modern world of wound care, we’ve seen drastic improvements in treatment options over the years. So it’s always a surprise when we hear that there are still orders being submitted these days for outdated practices. In this case, we’re talking about those dreaded wet-to-dry dressings.

Why is this still happening – even though the disadvantages to this approach are well-documented? Could it simply be due to a lack of education? Or maybe it’s due to the unavailability of other wound care products that have been shown to yield much better (and safer) outcomes. Whatever the reason, we’re here to double-down on this: no more wet-to-dry dressings.

What is Wet-to-Dry?

Wet-to-dry is a form of mechanical debridement, and is substandard for wound care.  Here’s how it works:

  • A moist saline gauze is placed onto the wound bed.
  • The dressing is allowed to dry and adhere to the tissue in the wound bed.
  • Once the gauze is dry, the clinician forcefully removes the gauze.
  • Any dead tissue that has adhered to the dry gauze will then be removed from wound bed.
  • These steps are to be repeated every 4 to 6 hours.

 A Reality Check

Although this is technically the way wet-to-dry dressings are applied, most often clinicians will modify it by moistening the gauze prior to removal. This is so that it won’t stick to the wound bed and cause bleeding and trauma, or remove healthy tissue along with it.  The problem is that, while well-intentioned, the moistening of the gauze before removal, which spares the patient pain, defeats the original purpose (mechanical debridement). In addition, the prescribing clinician’s orders are not being followed.

To further complicate matters, some professionals with prescriptive authority write for this dressing but do not understand it is for debridement.  For example, a Physician’s Assistant once explained that he thought this type of dressing meant that the wound bed would be kept moist and covered with a dry secondary dressing.  So in many cases, we have wet-to-dry orders being written by someone who doesn’t understand what they’re ordering, and we have clinicians implementing these orders incorrectly.

The 2014 International Pressure Ulcer Guidelines clearly state that wet-to-dry dressings can be painful and may remove healthy tissue.  It also states that they are being used less frequently. In fact, research shows that this procedure is associated with slower healing rates and are costly in professional time due to the need for frequent wound dressing changes.

We Have Solutions

So, what is the answer to this ongoing problem for wound care practitioners?  It’s all about education, and everyone can help by:

  1. Sharing information. Proper educational resources and information regarding this issue need to be shared with not only nursing staff, but also with those who write the orders.
  2. Making a plan. Talk to your medical director and plan a short educational program to present alternatives for those with prescriptive authority.
  3. Asking for change. Ask for a facility policy change from your medical director that states wet-to-dry dressing orders are no longer acceptable.
  4. Talking about it. Keep the discussion going and enlist help from all levels of the organization.
  5. Learning from others. There are plenty of success stories out there from facilities that have planned for and implemented change involving key stake holders. Know that changes can be made, and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen quickly. Remember, your patients are counting on you.

What do you think?

Do you work in a facility that has eliminated wet-to-dry dressings?  How did this change in policy take place, and do you have tips for others who are dealing with this problem? We would love to hear about your experiences having to do with this topic. Please leave your comments below.

 

What do you think?

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