Learn When You Should Apply a Hydrogel Dressing to a Wound

hydrogel dressings

As wound care clinicians, you must be aware of the different types of wound care dressings, such as hydrogel dressings.

A hydrogel dressing — also known as hydrated polymer dressings — consist of 90% water in a gel base that regulate fluid exchange from the wound surface.

It absorbs small amounts of fluid and donating moisture to the wound bed.

These dressings are available in sheets, amorphous gels, or impregnated gauze and packing strips.

Function of a hydrogel dressing

These dressings donate moisture to the wound to promote autolytic debridement or provide for a moist wound healing that promotes granulation and epithelialization.

A hydrogel dressing is non-adherent and can assist with pain relief because of its high moisture content.

When to use hydrogel dressings

A hydrogel dressing is appropriate in the following situations:

  • Dry or slightly moist partial- and full-thickness wounds
  • Granulating wounds
  • Abrasions and partial-thickness burns
  • Radiation skin damage
  • Wounds with slough or eschar
  • Painful wounds

Contraindications

There are two types of wounds for which a hydrogel dressing is not advised — full-thickness burns and moderate- to high-exuding wounds.

Advantages and disadvantages

Positive results of using a hydrogel dressing include:

  • Cools and soothes
  • Can be used on infected wounds
  • Hydrates eschar and nonviable tissue, promoting debridement
  • Facilitates wound repair and epithelialization

However, there are a few disadvantages to consider as well:

  • Requires a secondary dressing cover
  • Might cause maceration
  • Can dehydrate if not covered
  • Should not be used with alginates, foams, and gelling fiber dressings

Reminders for wound care clinicians

You should remember four key things when adding a hydrogel dressing:

  1. Care must be taken to avoid macerating surrounding skin.
  2. Clean wound between dressing changes with normal saline or per manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Change dressings every one to four days, as needed.
  4. For radiation burns, the dressing can be stored in a refrigerator and applied to the wound cold to soothe and reduce patients’ pain.

Learn more about dressings in our Wound Care Certification courses.

Editor’s note: Bill Richlen, PT, WCC, DWC, reviewed and updated this blog for clinical accuracy.

wound care

Bill Richlen, PT, WCC, DWC, is a clinical instructor for the Wound Care Education Institute. As a licensed physical therapist, Richlen has experience in advanced wound care consultations in long-term care, outpatient, skilled rehabilitation and home health. He has served as a clinical instructor for physical therapy students, been the director of several large rehabilitation departments, and has been providing multi-disciplinary wound care education to nurses and therapists for more than 17 years. His expertise in diverse settings enhance his role as a clinical instructor. His dynamic and captivating teaching style keeps attendee’s attention throughout each course.

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