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Dressing (medical)

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Title: Dressing (medical)  
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Subject: Medical dressings, First aid, Microporous material, Coloplast, Antihemorrhagic
Collection: First Aid, Medical Dressings
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Dressing (medical)

An adhesive island dressing, in its original packaging (left) and on a person's wrist (right).

A dressing is a sterile pad or compress[1] applied to a first aid and nursing.


  • Core purposes of a dressing 1
  • Types of dressing 2
  • Biologics, skin substitutes, biomembranes and scaffolds 3
  • Usage of dressings 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Core purposes of a dressing

A dressing can have a number of purposes, depending on the type, severity and position of the wound, although all purposes are focused towards promoting recovery and preventing further harm from the wound. Key purposes of a dressing are:

  • Stem bleeding – to help to seal the wound to expedite the clotting process;
  • Absorb exudate – to soak up blood, plasma, and other fluids exuded from the wound, containing it/them in one place;
  • Ease pain – to have an actual pain-relieving effect, whereas some others may have a placebo effect;
  • Debride the wound – to remove slough and foreign objects from the wound;
  • Protection from infection – to defend the wound against germs and mechanical damage;
  • Promote healing – to contribute to recovery via granulation and epithelialization; and
  • Reduce psychological stress – to obscure a healing wound from the view of others.

Types of dressing

Depiction of a dressing on a face from a painting from 1490

Historically, a dressing was usually a piece of material, sometimes cloth, but the use of cobwebs, dung, leaves and honey have also been described. However, modern dressings[2] include gauze (which may be impregnated with an agent designed to help sterility or to speed healing), films, gels, foams, hydrocolloids, alginates, hydrogels and polysaccharide pastes, granules and beads. Many gauze dressings have a layer of nonstick film over the absorbent gauze to prevent the wound from adhering to the dressing. Dressings can be impregnated with antiseptic chemicals, as in boracic lint or where medicinal castor oil was used in the first surgical dressings.[3] Bioelectric dressings such as Procellera can be effective in attacking certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria[4] and speeding up the healing process.[5]

In 1962,

  1. ^ "First Aid Equipment, Supplies, Rescue, and Transportation". Hospital Corpsman. Naval Education and Training Command. 2003. pp. 3–1. 
  2. ^ "". SMTL. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  3. ^ Gallant, A. E. (1897). "Report upon the Use of a Mixture of Castor oil and Balsam of Peru as a Surgical Dressing". Annals of Surgery 26 (3): 329–339.  
  4. ^ Kim, H; Makin, I; Skiba, J; Ho, A; Housler, G; Stojadinovic, A; Izadjoo, M (24 Feb 2014). "Antibacterial efficacy testing of a bioelectric wound dressing against clinical wound pathogens". Open Microbiol J 8 (1): 15–21.  
  5. ^ Banerjee, Jaideep; Ghatak, Piya Das; Roy, Sashwati; Khanna, Savita; Sequin, Emily K.; Bellman, Karen; Dickinson, Bryan C.; Suri, Prerna; Subramaniam, Vish V.; Chang, Christopher J.; Sen, Chandan K. (3 March 2014). "Improvement of Human Keratinocyte Migration by a Redox Active Bioelectric Dressing".  
  6. ^
  7. ^ Caruso, D. M.; Foster, K. N.; Hermans, M. H. E.; Rick, C. (2004). "Aquacel Ag?? In the Management of Partial-Thickness Burns: Results of a Clinical Trial". Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation 25 (1): 89–97.   [2]
  8. ^ Vyas KS, Vasconez HC. Wound Healing: Biologics, Skin Substitutes, Biomembranes and Scaffolds. Healthcare. 2014; 2(3):356-400.


See also

An "ideal" wound dressing is one that is sterile, breathable, and conducive for a moist healing environment. This will then reduce the risk of infection, help the wound heal more quickly, and reduce scarring.

Applying and changing dressings is one common task in nursing.

Historically, and still the case in many less developed areas and in an emergency, dressings are often improvised as needed. This can consist of anything, including clothing or spare material, which will fulfill some of the basic tenets of a dressing – usually stemming bleeding and absorbing exudate.

Applying a dressing is a first aid skill, although many people undertake the practice with no training – especially on minor wounds. Modern dressings will almost all come in a prepackaged sterile wrapping, date coded to ensure sterility. This is because it will come in to direct contact with the wound, and sterility is required to fulfill the 'protection from infection' aim of a dressing.

Usage of dressings

Advancements in the clinical understanding of wounds and their pathophysiology have commanded significant biomedical innovations in the treatment of acute, chronic, and other types of wounds. Many biologics, skin substitutes, biomembranes and scaffolds have been developed to facilitate wound healing through various mechanisms. This includes products such as monoterpenes, Epicel, Laserskin, Transcyte, Dermagraft, AlloDerm/Strattice, Biobrane, Integra, Apligraf, OrCel, GraftJacket and PermaDerm. A systematic review of these products with mechanisms and clinical outcomes is summarized by Vyas, et al.[8]

Biologics, skin substitutes, biomembranes and scaffolds

Occlusive dressings, made from substances impervious to moisture such as plastic or latex, can be used to increase the rate of absorption of certain topical medications into the skin.

  • Controlling the moisture content, so that the wound stays moist or dry. An example of a moisture-retaining dressing is Aquacel, which is a "hydrofiber" that is indicated, for example, for partial-thickness burns.[7]
  • Protecting the wound from infection;
  • Removing slough; and
  • Maintaining the optimum pH and temperature to encourage healing.

Various types of dressings can be used to accomplish different objectives including:


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