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Wound Dressings
Scott ChambersOct 21, 202212 min read

Overview of Wound Dressings

The injury healing process can be long and painful whether wounds are open or closed, shallow or deep. 

Wound types cover a wide range depending on location and injury sustained. There isn’t one specific treatment for a wound, and the care method varies greatly depending on its depth and placement.

Many types of wound dressings help heal burns, chronic ulcers, pressure sores, and leg ulcers, so choosing a bandage isn’t simple. 

This wound dressing guide will demonstrate several wound dressings to ensure your wound heals the right way every time. 

Overview of Wound Dressings Video

What is a Wound Dressing?

A wound dressing is a type of bandage used to cover a wound by sticking to the surrounding skin using wound dressing tape or glue. 

Wound dressings come in the form of a gel (hydrogel), foam, gauze, bandage, or any other wound dressing patches. They help prevent infection, encourage healing, and reduce pain. 

Different wound dressing types are helpful for different kinds of wounds. Most are made of compounds like polymers, elastomers, and natural products.

Alternative dressings include wet-to-dry bandages, alginates, hydrogels, and film dressings, often used post-surgery or to treat severe injuries like burns. 

First, look at how treating the wound determines the type of dressing used so you’ll be confident you’re making the right choice.

Pre-Treating the Wound

Health professionals use a wide range of techniques when assessing injuries. 

Most health professionals begin by evaluating the situation to ensure they understand the nature of the wound and how best to treat it.

You might hear something like, “The wound is open with an extended defect,” meaning a break in the skin extends to the muscle or fat.

That’s a moderately severe injury that requires a dressing to protect the wound from further exposure. It could also signal a need to stop the bleeding, remove debris, or apply antibiotics before using a bandage.


The first step is preserving all living tissue. In doing so, the aim is to stop infected blood from entering the body’s healthy areas. 

For instance, suppose the vein of a severe wound collapses. Doctors would use stitches and a catheter to aid the blood vessels in hemostasis. 

The catheter’s tip lives under the skin. 

It sticks for up to three weeks and delivers a steady amount of oxygenated blood throughout the wound.


When a wound gets infected with bacteria or fungus, doctors administer antibiotics to stop the infection from spreading.

If that isn’t enough to heal the area, they might try debridement, A.K.A. dead tissue removal. 

Debridement can be done as a manual process, using hands and tools like forceps and scalpels, but it’s also possible through radiation therapy or surgery.


After they remove the dead tissue, doctors use sutures or surgical staples to close any remaining wounds. 

Next comes the rehabilitation process.

Doctors may opt for a cast, splint, or shoe to keep the joint safe where the damage occurred, such as in the ankle, knee, or hip. 

Often, they’ll recommend physical therapy, which helps improve mobility and prevent any injury from occurring during exercise.


Once closed, doctors re-evaluate the wound and continue treating the injury if necessary. 

The first action is to clean damaged skin with sterile water or saline solution. Next, cover it with a sterile dressing to keep germs out. 

Using a Wound Dressing Selection Chart

There are many different options in the market today, which is why the wound dressing selection chart determines which dressing is best.

In this section, you’ll compare the wound dressings featured in the wound dressing selection guide and how they can each help heal certain injury types.

Wound dressing selection chart


Gauze bandages are often used between burn layers as short-term fixes by ambulance medics on the field. 

As a material, gauze can attach to other wounds for support and fill wound cavities. They can also sit on lacerations to prevent disease or itching.

It’s worth noting that wearing gauze bandages long-term isn’t recommended because they don’t form a tight seal.   

Advantages: Gauze bandages can be cut down to size, and despite being one-use, they’re still an excellent alternative to hypoallergenic plasters that can cause skin sensitivity. 

Gauze bandages are also easy to find in most general medicine stores and are great for those on a small budget.

Disadvantages: Gauze bandages don’t stick to the skin or adhere well to wounds. As a result, they cannot hold fluids or bacteria in the damage and can also fall off at any time.

On many occasions, this can lead to increased skin irritation and pain for the patient. Gauze bandages are also very flimsy and can rip with ease.

Special Considerations: Gauze has existed since the Crimean War in the 19th century. It doesn’t adhere well to the skin, so it can’t hold any fluid or bacteria in an injury without additional dressing.

However, gauze bandages can be a cost-effective dressing for wounds that won’t heal otherwise and effectively prevent infection spread.


Hydrocolloid bandages are transparent, sticky bandages placed over wounds with a layered effect. 

Hydrocolloid bandages absorb fluid matter while maintaining moisture levels when applied to wounds. This lets tissue below the surface heal quicker by reducing redness and inflammation. 

Hydrocolloid dressings that consist of gelatinous material are very useful in helping all kinds of wounds heal. When applied on top of other dressings, they form a seal to protect the injury from external factors. 

Advantages: Hydrocolloid bandages seal over the wound and hold it together. This seal prevents dirt from entering the infected area while the body naturally heals itself. 

Hydrocolloid bandages can also prevent fluids from leaking and draw them out of the wound area. This process reduces pain, minimizes swelling, and encourages healing without interference.

Disadvantages: Hydrocolloid bandages aren’t helpful for deep or infected wounds because they don’t absorb blood or bacterial infection.

They are challenging to keep in place and can come loose. Lastly, the applied bandage may stick to itself, other dressings, or the skin, making it hard to remove. 

Special Considerations: Hydrocolloid wound dressings are the medics’ choice in hospital settings. Post-op, they’re often used for keeping clean wounds free from infection, and they can hold tissue together during healing if replaced every 48 hours. 


Gel bandages are transparent wound dressings made from wax, air bubbles, or hydrogels. 

Once they come into contact with bare skin, these materials form a gel-like substance. Gel bandages have a high-water content and improve blood flow to the deepest layers of the skin. 

Medics most often use hydrogel bandages in organ transplants and skin grafts. They act as a dressing that seals shut wounds without causing pain or discomfort.

Advantages: Gel bandages stick well to the body and cover wounds without discomfort. They can also withstand frequent changes without losing effectiveness or irritating sensitive skin.

Gel bandages also seal over wounds to slow the bleeding and prevent infection from getting into deep tissues.

Disadvantages: Hydrogel wound dressings use thick, one-use, and unsterilized bandages. Because their thickness can be uncomfortable for the patient, they require a conscientious application.  

Special Considerations: Hydrogel bandages are best used in first aid to prevent further tissue damage. They can protect wounds that need urgent attention when used with other dressings. 


Moisture-retentive bandages are transparent dressings made from materials like cotton wool. 

They are well-known for their ability to absorb blood and exudate (also known as drainage) from wounds and slow the rate at which wounds discharge fluid. The absorption promotes new living tissue growth and reduces the risk of infection.

Advantages: Moisture-retentive bandages absorb drainage, preventing deeper infection and reducing pain via the protective layer over the healing wound.

Disadvantages: It’s common for moisture-retentive bandages to fall off, causing both external and internal discomfort for the patient. They don’t allow wounds to breathe when the injury needs to cleanse itself of bacteria or fluid.

Special Considerations: Moisture-retentive bandages are most effective when used with gauze or hydrocolloids. They shouldn’t be on the skin for long periods. 

The fluid is absorbed, not eliminated, so there’s a high risk of further contamination or infection. 


Oxygen-absorbing bandages use materials like blue cellulose to manage the amount of oxygen a wound absorbs. 

Typically, oxygen-absorbing applications treat injuries that have ALREADY developed necrotic tissue to prevent bacteria from spreading into deeper layers of tissue.

Advantages: Oxygen-absorbing bandages increase oxygen levels in a wound, which promotes faster growth and regeneration of cells in the area. They also help seal the wound shut, trapping bacteria out of deeper tissue layers.

These dressings (including hydrocolloids) all encourage healthy cell growth and regeneration. 

Disadvantages: Oxygen-absorbing bandages cannot remove liquid from wounds. They can be harmful if applied with several exudates and aren’t suitable for deep or infected wounds.

Special Considerations: Oxygen-absorbing bandages work best when receiving a direct oxygen supply. 

Refrain from using them alone if they don’t absorb exudates well enough. There’s a high chance of abscesses forming, which can stop the wound from healing. 


Sterile gauze bandages include cotton or synthetic material like rayon. These are the most popular types of applications in hospital settings. 

When faster healing is needed, sterile gauze bandages hold wounds together.

Sterile gauze bandages come in various shapes and sizes, making them very easy to apply over complex wounds or smaller areas. When die cut, they can fit the required shape for application over common complex injuries.

Advantages: Sterile gauze bandages adhere well to the skin and are easy to cut to size. They also allow wounds to breathe so oxygen can still get into the damaged spot even when it’s covered up. 

Disadvantages: Sterile gauze bandages aren’t good at controlling bleeding or infection because they don’t absorb blood or fluids well.

Unlike other dressing types, sterile gauze bandages don’t create a strong seal over wounds. They might even come loose while healing and need to be reapplied.

Special Considerations: Sterile gauze bandages work best in combination with other dressings to ensure that oxygen levels in the wound can remain low while keeping injuries covered.

It’s best to apply sterile gauze bandages on small cuts and minor injuries to keep them secure and protected during healing.


Transparent film bandages, otherwise known as transparent wound dressing tape, are made from PVC materials. 

This type of bandage sits over a wound to seal it shut without causing much discomfort. The tight seal allows the natural healing process to occur underneath the dressing.

Transparent film bandages come with internal adhesive tapes for more straightforward application. The inner adhesive tapes make them great for injuries on larger sections of the body.

Advantages: Transparent film bandages are cheap. They quickly cut to size and require no maintenance as single-use bandages. As a result, they are a more cost-effective option and allow wounds to breathe and heal rapidly.

Disadvantages: Transparent film bandages do not absorb blood or exudate well. Thus, if used on deep or infected wounds, healing may take longer, or infection may spread. 

In addition, these bandages are not sterile and are only suitable for one-time use.

Special Considerations: Transparent film bandages also work well with other dressing types. These create a seal over a wound area and reduce the risk of infection. They can exist alone but have a habit of falling off wounds, so they’re not ideal for long-term use.


Tissue adhesive bandages are transparent and made from cyanoacrylate materials. These form chemical bonds between them and the tissues they encounter. 

Tissue adhesive bandages seal up minor cuts, allowing the skin to heal faster by preventing infection from entering the wound. 

They can bond skin together almost immediately and are used to treat patients with minor injuries in the emergency room.

Advantages: Tissue adhesive bandages allow a tight seal when applied over a wound. They also significantly reduce pain levels while promoting faster growth of new tissue in cut-open areas.

Disadvantages: Tissue adhesive bandages don’t allow wounds to heal naturally because they don’t create an environment where natural healing can occur.

Also, they form blisters when applied over a wound. These blisters come loose with ease, so the dressing needs regular application.

Special Considerations: Tissue adhesive bandages work only on minor cuts and wounds. These bandages are best saved for emergencies where scars or other damage is assured.


Wound dressing foam is a safe alternative to gauze. It is easy to use, has excellent sealing properties, and adheres well to the surrounding skin. 

It’s also most useful during the INITIAL wound healing phases.

Wound dressing foam promotes granulation (new tissue/blood vessels) and the wound bed’s re-epithelialization (new skin). The foam can then be removed painlessly by applying gentle pressure to the skin.

Wound dressing foam promotes faster healing of the wound bed as it seals the wound and cuts blood loss from the tissue edges. The consistency seeps well into the complex shapes of each laceration, reducing both the growth of bacteria and the chances of biofilm forming.

Advantages: Wound dressing foam covers the wound bed. It promotes faster natural healing in soft tissue wounds. The foam helps stem bacterial growth in the damaged area and covers the edge of the injury, reducing the chance of inflammation and infection.

Disadvantages: Wound dressing foam does not adhere well to dry wound surfaces. It also contains latex, which could trigger an allergic reaction.

Wound Dressings

Dressing wounds is a process that may seem intimidating at first. Still, it can become a comfortable and straightforward process with enough practice.

Every wound dressing has pros and cons when it comes to medical treatments. Thus, most professionals recommend trying different ones to see which works best.

There are countless brands, styles, and shapes of bandages on the market today. All these choices make it hard to work out what’s best for different patients.

Hence, the healthcare provider determines how the wound dressing process will go.

If you’re a business and need to order wound dressings, get in touch and receive your free quote today.


Scott Chambers

As the VP of Sales and Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees Strouse's Go-To-Market Strategy. Scott has a BS in Business Management from Coastal Carolina, a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and an MBA from Indiana University.