Rosalyn Jordan, RN, BSN, MSc, CWOCN, WCC

While moisture promotes wound healing, what about those wounds that have a lot of drainage?

There are dressings designed for absorbing drainage. These dressings are placed in the wound bed so that while moisture is absorbed, there is some protection from maceration for the surrounding skin (also called the periwound area). Some dressings in this category are foam, calcium alginate and collagen.

Foam dressings are made of hydrophilic, polyurethane foam or a gel type foam that is covered with a film. These dressings cause no trauma when removed and many are manufactured with an adhesive border. Dressing changes are based on the amount of wound drainage, but they are usually changed every three to five days. Foam dressings can be used on most wounds but are contraindicated for third-degree burns. Check product information before use in tunneling and cavity wounds.

Calcium alginate dressings are produced from a brown seaweed. The material is a cellulose polysaccharide and forms a gel-like material when it is moistened with wound drainage. There is no trauma with the removal of this dressing and it can be used in tunnels and undermining. Depending on the amount of drainage, dressings should be changed every one to two days. Calcium alginate dressings do have some hemostatic effect on minor bleeding but is contraindicated for heavy bleeding, third-degree burns and surgical implantation.

Collagen dressings are created from animal proteins. Not only do these dressings promote cellular functions in the wound but they are also absorbent and will not adhere to the wound bed. Dressings should be changed every one to three days. 

Protect the periwound area with draining wounds. Absorbent dressing should not be used on dry eschar or wounds with no drainage.