Specialty dressings cover up a considerably large segment of the medical literature. This is because wound dressings are of various types, levels, and functionalities. From heavily to lesser exuding wounds, they also differ in thickness, degree (in case of burn injuries), and such other parameters. This article focuses on a popular specialty dressing – the hydrocolloid dressing – its applicability, impact upon the wound, and an insight into the steps that take care of such dressings.

Firstly, when are Hydrocolloid dressings to be applied?

The very first indication that this dressing can be applied is that the wound needs to be uninfected. Hydrocolloid dressings do not work on infected wounds. The second most important point is that the wound needs to be dry. In short, the following are the characteristics that are favorable for the application of a hydrocolloid dressing:

• Clean and free from infection

• There can be a little or preferably no drainage, that is, the wound is dry

• The wound is not too deep; thickness can be up to ‘medium’ level

• The injury site is free from debris and dirt

The question that surfaces at this juncture is: how do you know whether a wound is infected or not?

Well, infection is indicated by a particular wound when it is accompanied by –

• Redness around the area

• Pus formation noticed in the wound drainage

• Pain, swelling and tenderness in the wound

• The injured person has fever attack

Secondly, what is the composition of Hydrocolloid dressings?

Hydrocolloid dressings are named so as they are composed of hydrophilic colloidal particles like gelatine and cellulose. They bear the following virtues, which make them a popular choice among medical professionals and patients too.

• They are water-resistant: Not only are these dressings water-resistant but also impermeable to gas, vapor, and microorganisms like bacteria! This favors quick wound healing.

• The dressing has a transparent appearance: This allows the injured to observe the wound site and check its amount of exudation.

• Once the dressing comes in contact with the wound, it swells and acts as a soft barrier too.

To make things precise, hydrocolloid dressings are known by the following features and properties:

1. Apart from the ‘wafer’ form that has a polyurethane outer film, these dressings are also available in forms like – powder, gel, and paste. The gel and paste form, obviously, needs a secondary dressing.

2. They can be cut to fit according to the wound size. The size is determined such that it is slightly (1 to 2 inches) larger than the wound. The product is, however, self-adherent and non-adherent to the moist wound base!

3. They are available in both ‘with’ and ‘without’ an adhesive border. So, as far as the ones with an adhesive border are concerned, is their removal a painful experience?

Well, careful removal of the dressing does not hurt the patient significantly. To do the needful, the caregiver needs to adhere to the following steps:

• The skin near the edge of the dressing should be pressed. This helps in the lifting up of the product on one side.

• This should be continued at around all the edges until all the adhesive portions are free

• The dressing now needs to be peeled off in the direction of hair growth.

The duration of a hydrocolloid dressing ranges from as short as a day to up to 7 days! Removal may be indicated by the dressing itself when it starts coming up at the edges. Since these dressings effectively keep the wound bed moist, they do not require frequent changing (unless otherwise indicated by the wound or the dressing itself). However, if the patient has comorbidity like diabetes, the dressing needs to be changed more frequently.