Wound Care: What are Hydrocolloid Dressings?

Published: 21st August 2009
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Proper wound care is essential for healing from skin trauma. The market is rife with various wound care products, manufactured using varying materials and technologies. Hydrocolloid dressings, such as Convatec duoderm and others, are one such type of dressing.

Hydrocolloid dressings (like Convatec duoderm) contain gel-forming agents. They are most often composed of sodium carboxymethylcellulose, a substance which soaks up liquid and creates a bonding effect. Hydrocolloid dressings may also contain gelatin, which also has liquid-absorbing and emulsifying properties.

These substances are combined with adhesives and applied to some type of a backing, (foam or plastic film.) This forms a type of "patch" or dressing, which is then applied to a wound on the skin. The dressing becomes self-adhesive, absorbent and waterproof.

Choosing wound-care products like Convatec duoderm have a number of advantages, including:

*Ease of application and removal: Since hydrocolloid dressings are self-adhesive, they can be removed as easily as they are applied. There is no ripping or pulling of the skin surrounding the wound when the dressing is removed. Adhesiveness is maintained throughout the whole duration of the wearing of the dressing.

*Wet-tack ability: Regular dressings can be very difficult to use on moist wounds, because they don't stick well to moist surfaces. Weeping wounds sometimes cause ordinary dressings to lose their adhesiveness. Hydrocolloid dressings actually adhere to both moist and dry surfaces, making them ideal for moist, weeping wounds.

*Longer wear: Hydrocolloid dressings do not have to be changed as frequently as other types of dressings. They are far more absorbent than gauze-type dressings, which typically have to be changed at least once per day, often up to several times per day, depending on the type of wound. Hydrocolloid dressings, on the other hand, can often be worn for up to three to five days at a time.

*Forming a tight seal/closure: The ability of hydrocolloid dressings to form a seal is known as occlusion. This prevents water from penetrating the dressing, so they can be worn in the shower, etc. It also prevents weeping wounds from leaking outside of the dressing. In fact, hydrocolloid dressings (such as duoderm) seal so effectively that they have even been used to stop the spread of highly infectious viruses such as MRSA.

*Less allergenic than other wound care products: Hydrocolloid dressings carry very low risk of causing allergic reactions/contact dermatitis. For this reason, most anyone can use them, even people with sensitive skin and skin allergies.

*Less likely to dry out skin: Adhesive, gauze-type dressings tend to have a drying effect on skin and on the wounds they are covering. This can lead to irritation of both the wound and the surrounding skin. Hydrocolloid dressings, on the other hand, have a softening effect.

Hydrocolloid dressings such as Convatec duoderm are appropriate for wounds moderate to medium exudate. (Exudate refers to the substance that is excreted from wounds, usually referred to as "weeping" or "oozing.") They are typically not recommended for serious burns, but instead are indicated for lacerations, abrasions, incisions and punctures.

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