There are variety of wound dressing that can be used with wet wounds. Alginate wound dressing is one of those. Despite its wide use from the early 1950s, alginate dressings remain less popular compared to some other kinds of modern wound dressings. However, this remains as one of the most effective dressing to be applies on secreting lacerations. Benefits of alginate wound dressings can be put into consideration before deciding to use it on wound sites with excessive fluid discharge.
What is alginate wound dressing?
Alginate wound dressing is a highly absorbent dressings, which are also biodegradable because it uses substances derived from natural sources. An alginate wound dressing contains sodium and calcium derived from seaweed and come in the form of flat dressings. As a highly absorbent wound care choice, an individual alginate wound dressing can absorb up to 15 to 20 times its own weight, which makes these dressings really work for excessively-secreting wounds. In addition to being highly absorbent, the dressings are also flexible and may easily mold themselves into the shape of the wound site. This helps covering the entire wound site properly and therefore, triggers proper wound drainage.
There are some benefits of using alginate wound dressings, such as:
- It molds properly according to the shape and size of the wound, so that it can accommodate wounds in those areas that are difficult to dress or wherein movements are excessive, such as heels and sacral areas.
- It absorbs excessive fluid and wound drainage, which promote faster skin tissues regeneration and proper healing, so that it is suitable for wounds with a lot of fluid discharge, such as pressure ulcers, diabetes ulcers, or venous ulcers. It prevents further infection from the wound site to spread into the deeper muscles or bones.
- It can be impregnated with antimicrobial agents, such as silver or honey, so that additional antimicrobial action is minimally required. Antimicrobial action is needed when the signs of infection present, in order to eliminate all bacteria that have been drawn into the wound site.
- Alginate dressings aid autolytic debridement, in that they maintain a moist environment throughout the healing process, so that manual debridement should not be required. Instead, sufficient moist environment will let the body enzymes do this autolytic debridement process.
- The dressings also aid hemostasis or coagulation, so that it promotes faster healing to bleeding wounds.
How to use alginate wound dressings
Before applying an alginate wound dressing, it is important to observe the conditions and characteristics of the wound site, since the dressing is suitable for certain types of wound, but may aggravate some other types. Alginate wound dressings will properly accommodate wet or secreting wounds and lacerations, and sloughy wounds, where significant dead tissues present. These include:
- Full-thickness burns.
- Surgical lacerations and incisions.
- Chronic ulcers that can be diabetic or venous.
- Cavity wounds.
- Other minor wounds in the regions of the body where ordinary wound dressings can hardly be applied on.
Compared to hydrocolloid or hydrogel wound dressings, alginate wound dressings can absorb the excess fluid better. Hence, when the dressed wounds become chronic, in which exudation increases as well as the resulted fluid discharge raises in amount, alginate wound dressing can still accommodate this excess properly.
In using alginate wound dressings, some steps, tips, and methods can be considered:
- An alginate wound dressing can be changed every 1 to 3 days, depending on the amount of wound exudate. Some brands can be applied onto the wound site for 5 days without being changed.
- Alginate dressings are dry initially and will change into its gel texture as soon as it absorbs the excess fluid. However, if the dressing needs to be changed in daily basis, reassessment of the wound site might be required.
To apply the dressing, follow the instructions, which include:
- Clean the wound site and the skin around it with saline solution or a mixture of salt and water.
- Pat the cleaned area dry gently. Do not rub or pat it harshly, as it may cause bleeding.
- Prepare an alginate dressing which has been precut and shaped according to the size, shape, and location of the wound site.
- Place the alginate dressing over the wound. If you are using a rope alginate dressing, gently fill the wound with rope by fluffing and layering the dressing back and forth into the wound site.
- Make sure the dressing is in contact with the entire wound, especially if you are using this dressing for cavity wounds. It is essential for it to come in contact with all wound surfaces, including the tunneling.
- Place secondary dressing over the alginate wound dressing to secure it and hold it in place.
- Change the dressing every one to three days or whenever the fluid discharge start to leak from the edges of the wound dressings.
- If the alginate dressing becomes to dry and strongly attached to the wound, it will be helpful to dampen it with saline solution before removing it on the direction of hair growth, so that the risk of damaged surrounding skin and minor re-bleeding can be minimized.
- Alginate dressings are not designed for wounds with little or no drainage and otherwise, are suitable for wounds with excessive exudate. This dressing may dry out already-dried wounds and thus, may slow the healing down.