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Hydrocolloid Dressing — Everything you need to know about it

Hydrocolloid Dressing — Everything you need to know about it

Marc Kaplan |


Navigating wound care products can be tricky, especially given the number of options out there. When it comes to wound care education, it's important for patients to be familiar with the types of bandages available as well as their applications. While each bandage has its advantages and disadvantages, it's important to take note of those types of injuries for which each type of bandage is ideal.

There are a myriad of both traditional and advanced wound care products, one of which is the ever-popular hydrocolloid bandage. As one of the most advanced wound care products available, the hydrocolloid dressing is ideal for those wounds that are experiencing mild to moderate seepage. If you have any questions about which hydrocolloid wound dressing are best for you, make sure to speak to your physician.

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What is a hydrocolloid dressing?

The hydrocolloid bandage is highly unique in both structure as well as function. The hydrocolloid dressing contains gel-forming components that are held within an adhesive. This adhesive is then contained within a film that is typically composed of either silicone or polyurethane. In summation, hydrocolloid dressings are advanced wound care products that are waterproof and self-adhering, making them easy to use and effective at maximizing healing.

The purpose of the hydrocolloid bandage is to give the wound a moisture-filled healing environment. Hydrocolloid wound dressings insulate the wound and utilizes the body's moisture and natural enzymes to break down the dead tissue in a process known as autolytic debridement. The wound remains hydrated throughout healing, and the design of the hydrocolloid bandages allows them to remain in place for up to a week at a time.

Hydrocolloid bandages are quite absorbent and are ideal for wounds that experience mild to moderate drainage. When the wound is absorbed, the material in the bandage forms a gel, the properties of which are dependent upon the specific type of bandage it is. Some hydrocolloid dressings produce a coagulated gel, while others produce a waterier gel. Either way, hydrocolloid bandages are typically available in a myriad of thicknesses and either with or without adhesive edges.

What type of wounds most benefit from hydrocolloid bandages?

Hydrocolloid dressings can be used for a number of different wounds; there is even a hydrocolloid dressing for burns. Most importantly, it's essential that hydrocolloid dressings such as a hydrocolloid dressing for burns be used only when there is no sign of infection. For the most part, clinicians will recommend hydrocolloid dressings for wounds that are granular or necrotic in nature and a hydrocolloid dressing for burns when a burn is uninfected and of mild to moderate severity. These products are ideal for protecting newly healed and intact skin, meaning that these dressings are not appropriate for wounds with high levels of seepage.

What are the the advantages of hydrocolloid dressings?

They possess an active surface of gel-forming substances. When unused, this surface is hard and wafer-like but when in contact with the moisture of a wound, it absorbs the moisture and swells, forming a gel-like healing environment. There are many brands of Hydrocolloid dressings, one of the most notable being Tegaderm, a company that is well-known for producing high-quality hydrocolloid bandages, namely Tegaderm film.

There are a number of benefits to choosing a hydrocolloid dressing for burns or for other types of wounds. The most notable benefits of this film and similar dressings are as follows:


They maximize healing.

Hydrocolloid dressings do not require frequent changes. In fact, when a new dressing is applied, it likely won't need to be changed for between three to seven days, depending upon the moisture absorbency and the state of the wound. Due to the prolonged use, the wound is able to remain undisturbed for a considerable period of time, allowing it to heal undisturbed. Not only Hydrocolloid dressings are more likely to maximize healing, but it also means that Tegaderm film and other bandages can often be quite cost effective, in terms of both materials as well as cost of service, since these dressings can often be applied on one's own.

Hydrocolloid dressings have also been shown to reduce pain and to promote efficient healing. When compared with other types of bandages, such as gauze, they have been shown to be much less painful and more effective. Whether the wound consists of a laceration, a burn, or a shallow incision, hydrocolloid dressings typically mean that the patient will require fewer analgesics and will be able to return to his or her daily activities at a sooner time.

They're Impermeable to Contaminants

Tegaderm film and other hydrocolloid dressings are also able to drastically lower your risk for infection. They are impermeable to bacteria and generally waterproof, meaning that patients can shower and even swim as normal without concern. In fact, an 8-week study that was performed indicated that the levels of bacteria within a wound hardly changed when the wound was covered with a hydrocolloid bandage. Of the bacteria that was present under the bandage, none of them acted to prolong healing or cause infection.

They Adhere Only to Surrounding Skin

Tegaderm film is also ideal for wound care as it does not adhere to the wound itself, unlike other types of bandages such as gauzes and the like. Tegaderm film only adheres to intact skin, meaning that the bandage is also able to protect newly healed skin. Moisture is produced underneath Tegaderm film so as to promote healing and prevent healthy tissue breakdown. Additionally, a hydrocolloid dressing does not negatively affect the skin when it is removed.

They're Easy to Apply

These bandages are also available in a number of shapes and sizes, making Hydrocolloid dressings ideal for a number of different areas, including hard-to-reach and irregularly shaped parts of the body. Once your hands are cleaned and disinfected, application is quite easy. In fact, many individuals are able to apply the bandages without the assistance of a health professional. Some applications only require one hand as well.

Along with these four main benefits, the hydrocolloid dressing also offers a number of other benefits that are applicable to many different types of wounds. The many advantages of the hydrocolloid dressing can be summarized as such. They are:

  • Impermeable, which means they can protect the wound from bacteria and other contaminants as well as moisture.
  • Able to adhere to both dry and moist skin.
  • Designed to adhere only to the surrounding skin and not to the wound, thereby protecting the skin and keeping it intact.
  • Easy to apply and remove.
  • Able to be removed without disrupting or damaging the skin.
  • Able to be used along with compression products.
  • Able to be worn for up to a week, meaning they require fewer changes and fewer disruptions to the wound.

When used correctly, these bandages can provide a number of benefits that make them ideal for many types of wounds. However, you would be remiss if you didn't also research factors that might mean this type of bandage is not ideal for your particular situation.

What are some disadvantages of hydrocolloid dressings?

Along with their many advantages, it's also important to note that the hydrocolloid dressing for burns and other hydrocolloid dressings also come with some noted disadvantages. When it comes to wound care education, it's crucial to thoroughly understand both the pros and cons of the products you're considering. These hydrocolloid wound dressings are not ideal for all types of wounds. For example, they can:

  • Not be used for wounds that are infected or that are experiencing severe drainage.
  • Become dislodged if moisture and drainage is excessive.
  • Make observation of the wound difficult, especially if the bandages are opaque.
  • Curl or roll up around the edges.
  • Produce a residue that may stick to the wound, causing a bad smell once the dressing is removed.
  • Cause granulation of the wound.
  • Cause maceration of the skin around the wound.

When it comes to choosing the right Hydrocolloid dressing for your wound, wound care education is a must. It's only through proper wound care education acquired from a physician or via extensive research that one can be sure to choose the proper bandage for a particular wound. If you find yourself with any questions, always make sure to ask a physician who is reliable and able to provide you with the proper wound care education.

No matter what kind of dressing is used, it's crucial to exercise caution during application and removal. This is particularly important for those who are diabetic and using these dressings for foot wounds. Proper wound care education informs that this type of dressing should only be used after the wound has been thoroughly examined by a physician. This is especially important so as to determine that there is no ischemia or infection visible, that the wound is, in fact, superficial, and that the drainage is not too significant.

How do you apply hydrocolloid dressings?

Exactly how the hydrocolloid dressing should be applied will often depend upon the type of wound and whether or not you require additional treatment for the injury. However, in most cases, these dressings are easy to apply and can be done in the comfort of your own home. To apply:

  • Clean the wound thoroughly with a saline solution.
  • Make sure that your hands have been cleaned as well; it's recommended that you wear gloves.
  • Dry the skin thoroughly.
  • Remove the paper backing and make sure that the dressing is centered over the wound.
  • Apply the bandage to the skin with a rolling motion, ensuring that the bandage is smoothed out on the edges.
  • Frame the dressing with tape, if needed.


Burns Management

Wound Care

Surgical Wound Infection

On to you

Now that you have a better understanding of hydrocolloid dressings along with their advantages and disadvantages, what additional questions do you have? Please leave a comment below and we'll get right back to you.

-Marc Kaplan

CEO, Save Rite Medical


Save Rite Medical is built on the vision of servicing the medical community through education and premium services. Marc Kaplan conceived this idea through seeing a need to help educate on both information and supplies available to consumers.