Whenever the skin and tissue are damaged, a wound occurs. No matter how big or small, each wound requires proper care to speed up the healing process and make one feel like new again. This can be accomplished through a number of ways, starting from proper nutrition and sleep cycles, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and keeping the stress levels at bay, however, what makes the greatest impact on the wound healing is the choice of dressing you or your doctor decide on.
There is a great number of wound dressings, from modern day, state of the art products, to traditional and somewhat unconventional materials, and among all of them, hydrocolloid dressings seem to have proven themselves most prominent and widely used.
Hydrocolloid dressings are opaque wound dressings which are biodegradable and non-breathable, usually comprised of gel-forming agents such as gelatin, pectin, and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). When they come in contact with excess fluids from the wound, the polymers and polysaccharides in hydrocolloids absorb the moisture and swell up, forming a gel-like consistency which remains in the structure of the dressing. Most of the hydrocolloids are waterproof and they help with the fibrinolysis, angiogenesis, and overall healing of the wounded area.
When to use Hydrocolloids?
Hydrocolloid dressings are so versatile, they can be used on a number of wound types. However, their effects are best shown on uninfected wounds and are usually used on low exuding wounds as the studies suggest they do not perform well on medium to high exudation. Often, they are placed on necrotic or granulating wounds, and they play a big role in somewhat controversial, yet highly effective maggot therapy. In maggot therapy , hydrocolloids help prevent the maggots from escaping and they prevent their contact with oxygen. They help with the drainage and allow for easier inspection of the treated area, they are quite inexpensive and do not require high levels of maintenance.
Hydrocolloid dressings are often used on burns, and studies have shown that the application of hydrocolloids was easier than compared with paraffin gauze dressings. They are especially effective with partial or full-thickness wounds and dry wounds and need to be changed every three to seven days, depending on the exudate and the state of the wound.
Pros and cons of hydrocolloid dressings
As each type of dressing, hydrocolloids have their pros and cons. Some of the greatest advantages of hydrocolloid dressings are their ability to protect the wound from bacteria and other outside agents, they do not adhere directly to the wound but to the surrounding skin, helping the wound heal faster. They are easy to apply and need to be changed only once in every few days, letting the wound heal naturally and without interruptions. Compared to traditional wet-to-dry gauze dressings, hydrocolloids have proven to benefit the patients more and provide faster healing times and substantially less pain.
Another benefit of hydrocolloid dressings is the actual nursing time, which is notably reduced because they only need to be changed once in several days, much unlike the traditional gauze and saline soaks. Therefore, they have proven to be cost-effective as there are fewer materials and professional time used.
Additionally, studies have shown that hydrocolloid dressings are less painful than traditional paraffin gauzes, and they allow the patient to continue with his daily life and perform everyday tasks such as bathing or showering without causing damage to the wounded area.
There are numerous examples that prove that hydrocolloid dressings prevent the disruption to healing as they are impermeable to bacteria, they are usually waterproof, and adhere only to healthy, intact skin, instead of the wound. They are also available in various shapes and sizes that allow for maximum coverage of specific wounds. In addition, a doctor can cut hydrocolloid dressing into various shapes and strips that fit the individual area that needs coverage and is perhaps hard to reach, such as between fingers and toes, behind the ear, or on the elbow. They are comfortable and provide greater mobility of the area, which helps the patient in daily activities.
However, they do come with a set of cons, such as the fact that they are not useful in the treatment of infected wounds, they can in some cases of heavy excess fluids be dislocated, doctors could have difficulties assessing the wound’s state because of the opaqueness of the gels that form upon absorption of exudates. Hydrocolloids may also cause hyper granulation and the surrounding skin may in some cases begin to macerate. Therefore, one should be very cautious when using hydrocolloid dressings, especially in their application to the diabetic’s feet, and only upon exhaustive inspection that concludes there is no infection on the wound.
Over the past few years, there has been a debate over whether the hydrocolloids may be replaced by new dressings that appear on the market. However, to this day, it has not been proven that any of these new types match the abilities of hydrocolloids, and, after a few studies that have not provided any statistically significant differences between them and other types of dressings, it is, at least for now, safe to conclude that hydrocolloids are still very effective and will continue to be used.
How to apply hydrocolloids
Before applying any dressing to the wound, make sure you wash your hands and put on gloves. Clean the wound with saline solution or other cleanser and pat the surrounding skin dry with clean gauze. For deep wounds, apply wound filler, and warm the hydrocolloid dressing with your hands. Gently place the dressing onto the wound and smooth out the edges to promote the adhesive properties of the dressing and apply additional tape if needed.
Cutting and shaping hydrocolloid dressings should be done with a clean, sterile, and sharp scissors. Using sharp blades prevents shedding of the edges, which should be rounded to avoid them catching on to the patient’s clothing. Make sure to cut the dressing to overlap the intact skin at least 3cm around the wound to prevent leakage of exudate around the edges caused by gravity or other factors.
Removing the hydrocolloid dressing is also quite simple. Make sure to press down on the skin and very carefully lift the edges until nothing adheres to the skin. Then simply peel away the dressing gently and tend to the wound as your doctor prescribed.
In conclusion, hydrocolloid dressings are here to stay due to the easiness of use and wide variety they offer. Being highly useful in the treatment of burn wounds and other low exuding lesions, they allow the healthy skin to remain intact, thus promoting healing and debridement of the affected area. They are cost-effective and reduce pain, so it is safe to say that they will be used in the treatment of various injuries and wounds for years to come.