Hydrogel Wound Dressings: Benefits And Applications
The importance of wound dressing in wound care cannot be understated. Wound healing is a complex process that involves an interplay of various cytokines and inflammatory mediators. An exposed wound risks losing important factors necessary for optimum wound healing. The concept that open wounds heal slowly was widely accepted until the mid-1900s. However, traditional wound dressing made up of cotton, gauze, and lint played no active role in the stimulation of the healing process. A better understanding of wound healing physiology by wound care specialists and podiatrists led to the development of modern wound dressings that actively contribute to the healing process.
Hydrogel Wound Dressings: An Overview
Hydrogel wound dressings belong to the class of modern wound dressings that actively stimulate the wound healing process. They are composed of synthetic polymers with a high water content formed in the shape of sheets, amorphous gels, and foams. The dressing is usually surrounded by two layers of removable film. The innermost layer lies against the wound, while the outer layer is removable which makes the dressing more permeable to fluid. The hydrophilic polymers used in the composition of hydrogel wound dressings are unique in their ability to hydrate and moisturize the wound depending on its hydration status. The cross-linked polymer structure of hydrogel wound dressings enables them to trap water. They are also effective in providing a cooling effect to the wound bed.
Due to the high water content of hydrogel dressings, they do not have a very high absorptive capacity. However, hydrogel dressings may contain other substances like starch, collagen, or alginate that can significantly improve their absorptive capacity. Hydrogel dressings that lack borders require a secondary dressing. Examples of hydrogel wound dressings include Vigilon, Elastogel, Intrasite Gel, and Carrington Gel.
Benefits of Hydrogel Wound Dressings
Hydrogel wound dressings are known for their ability to provide a moist environment that facilitates autolytic debridement. The cooling effect provided by these dressings also makes them a popular dressing choice. Some of the major benefits of hydrogel wound dressings are listed below:
- Moist wound environment: A moist wound environment is the cornerstone of modern wound care. They have the unique ability to donate moisture to the wound microenvironment depending upon the level of moisture content in the wound bed. A moist environment is essential for facilitating autolytic debridement which is the removal of dead necrotic tissue. This property makes them an excellent choice for dry wounds.
- Cooling effect: Another unique property of hydrogel wound dressings is their ability to lower the temperature of the wound. This is because of the high water content of these dressings. The lowered temperatures help in pain relief.
- Easy removal: Hydrogel wound dressings have limited adhesion. This allows for easy removal without causing further trauma or damage to the wound site.
- Clinical monitoring: some hydrogel wound dressings are transparent in appearance. This allows wound care specialists and podiatrists an easy visualization of the wound. This is helpful in monitoring the progress of wound healing without the need for dressing removal.
- Antibacterial property: An additional advantage of hydrogel dressings is that they can be used along with antibacterial agents.
- Stimulation of wound healing: Hydrogel wound dressings improve wound healing through the facilitation of autolytic debridement and optimization of moisture in the wound microenvironment.
Applications of Hydrogel Wound Dressings
Hydrogels dressings are an excellent choice for dry wounds or wounds with minimal exudate. Some of the common indications of hydrogel wound dressings include:
- Pressure ulcers
- Skin grafts
- Radiotherapy burns
- Partial and full-thickness wounds
- Vascular ulcers
- Dermal wounds
- Donor sites
As hydrogels dressings are known for providing a soothing effect, they are suitable for use in painful wounds. They can also be used for sinus tracts and fistulas.
Some important considerations that should be kept in mind while using hydrogel wound dressings:
- Hydrogel wound dressings should not be used on infected wounds. This is because there is an increased risk of bacterial growth in the presence of excessive moisture.
- In the presence of arterial disease, hydrogel wound dressings should be avoided in diabetic foot ulcers. Careful assessment of vascular supply should be done before the selection of hydrogel wound dressings. This is because of the increased risk of wound infection in presence of moisture. The compromised vascular supply might make antibiotics ineffective.
- Due to their excessive hydrating property, there is a potential for wound maceration with the use of hydrogel wound dressings. Therefore it is recommended that they should be used in conjunction with a protective skin barrier.
- Hydrogel wound dressings do not have a very good absorptive capacity. This makes them unsuitable for wounds with heavy exudate.
- Alginate and hydrofiber wound dressings are not suitable to be used as secondary dressings along with hydrogel dressings. This is because they have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of hydrogel dressings.
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