What is a hydrocolloid dressing?

A hydrocolloid dressing is a type of dressing that provides a moist and insulated healing environment. Hydrocolloid dressings protect uninfected wounds and allow the body’s own enzymes to assist in the healing process. Hydrocolloid dressings are easier to apply than other dressings and they generally don’t need to be changed as frequently.
Most hydrocolloid dressings contain gel-like agents which help the wound to heal. They have a waterproof (usually polyurethane) backing which adheres to the skin. Hydrocolloid dressings are available in a wide range of shapes and thicknesses, and they can be purchased with or without an adhesive border.
When to use a hydrocolloid dressing. Hydrocolloid dressings are ideal for wounds that are free from dirt and debris. They are also suitable for dry wounds that don’t require drainage.


Benefits of hydrocolloid dressings

Hydrocolloid dressings bring many benefits to wound management. By creating a moist and protected environment, these dressing promote a rapid re-growth of skin over the wound-bed. Other key benefits include:
• Long lasting / need to be applied less frequently
• Easy to apply
• Promote faster healing
• Does not stick to the wound
• Resistant to bacteria and other contaminants
• Can be used with venous compression
• Flexible and waterproof


How to apply a hydrocolloid dressing

Hydrocolloid dressings are easy to apply, and simply require standard wound-care techniques. For best practice application, follow these steps:
1) Wash hands and wear gloves
2) Remove any previous dressings
3) Clean wound with saline
4) Pat wound dry with gauze
5) Apply a moisture barrier or wound cavity filler as needed
6) Select a hydrocolloid dressing that is roughly 3cm larger than the wound
7) Apply the dressing from the centre of the wound
8) Ensure the adhesive is smooth against the skin


When to change the dressing

Hydrocolloid dressings usually last between three to seven days. If the dressing starts to peel from the edges before this time, it will need changing.
The great thing about hydrocolloid dressings is that they keep the wound moist and protected. This means that the wound will not need to be cleaned every day. In fact, the wound will heal faster if you keep the dressing on and don’t regularly expose it to air.


How to remove a hydrocolloid dressing

Hydrocolloid dressings are easy to remove. Simply follow these steps when it’s time to remove the dressing:
• Lift up the corner of one of the adhesive edges
• Gently lift around all edges until all the adhesive is free
• Remove the dressing from the wound in the direction of hair growth
• Replace with new dressing if required.


When are hydrocolloid dressings not suitable?

Hydrocolloid dressings are not suitable for all types of wounds. In particular, these dressings should not be used on wounds that are infected or require drainage.
Hydrocolloid dressings are not ideal for wounds that require regular assessing as it can be difficult to see the wound without removing the dressing.
Individuals with fragile skin may find that the adhesive nature of these dressings can cause skin trauma when being removed.


Is it safe to use Hydrocolloid Dressings on Patients with Diabetes?

As patients with diabetes can have specific wound-care needs, it is advisable to use hydrocolloid dressings cautiously, especially if the wound is on the foot. Generally, these dressings are suitable for use on individuals with diabetes so long as:
• The patient has been thoroughly assessed
• The wound is not deep
• There is no sign of infection
• The wound does not require drainage
• Ischemia is not present
• The dressing will be changed frequently

What’s next?

Independence Australia stocks a range of hydrocolloid dressings products. 

More Wound Care Advice

Looking for more tips on managing wound care? Check out our wide range of health tips from leading health professionals.

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