Hydrogels are one of the most versatile dressings on the market. Consisting of 80% to 99% water or glycerin, hydrogels absorb minimal amounts of fluid but are able to donate moisture to dry wounds. Hydrogels consist of three-dimensional networks of hydrophilic polymers and are available in two forms: amorphous and fixed. Amorphous hydrogels offer gentle application and removal. They are free-flowing and will easily fill a cavity space. Fixed hydrogels are usually manufactured in the form of a thin, flexible sheet. Almost all hydrogels require a secondary dressing.
Benefits of Hydrogel Dressings
Hydrogels have a range of useful benefits. For example, they provide a moist wound healing environment and assist in autolytic debridement. They relieve pain, conform to the body shape, and do not adhere to the wound bed. However, hydrogels are permeable to both gas and water, making them less effective bacterial barriers than semipermeable films or hydrocolloids. Also, hydrogels dehydrate easily, particularly if water-based.
Sheet hydrogels are suitable for minimally or moderately draining wounds. In particular, they are indicated for superficial and partial-thickness wounds such as abrasions, skin tears, blisters, donor sites, first and second degree burns, pressure and diabetic ulcers, and surgery sites. Amorphous hydrogels are available in tubes or spray bottles, and can be used on dry wounds to help obtain a moist wound environment. Sheet hydrogels provide padding, and may be used within total-contact casts and splints to decrease pressure and reduce shear forces. Hydrogels are particularly effective at softening eschar, helping to facilitate autolytic debridement.
Usage of Hydrogel Dressings
As hydrogels absorb only a small amount of fluid, they should not be used on heavily draining or bleeding wounds. Sheet hydrogels should not be used on infected wounds. They are also contraindicated in patients with a known hypersensitivity to components of the gel.
To learn more about these dressings and others, you may wish to consider becoming certified as a wound care specialist. The benefits of wound certification are immeasurable, both to your own career and to the standard of care that you can offer your patients.
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