Wound dressings come in a number of specifications, each designed and manufactured for a particularly type of injury. The dressing’s properties are carefully engineered to match the type of wound, whether there is infection present, the level of exudate and how far into the healing process the wound has got.
The dressings are produced by wound dressing manufacturers in carefully controlled laboratories called cleanrooms, where the level of air contamination is strictly regulated. Cleanrooms used by the medical manufacturing profession typically have a contamination level of just a few particles per cubic metre, meaning the risk of the dressing becoming contaminated is incredibly low.
Ensuring contamination levels remain so low requires a stringent operating procedure. Persons must enter the cleanrooms via air-locked chambers, which minimise the chance of particles entering from outside. Protective clothing, designed to repel dirt and dust, must also be worn at all times. In environments where medical supplies are manufactured it is common for a full set of overalls, a facemask, gloves and protective boots to be worn.
There are several categories of wound dressing, each manufactured in a unique way to provide the best protection for a specific type of wound.
Firstly, hydrocolloid dressings are designed for the protection and healing of burns, ulcers and moderately draining wounds. They are manufactured using by knitting Carboxymethylcellulose, a hypoallergenic cellulose derivative and have excellent absorbing properties. As a result, they are often branded as the pioneers of moist and damp wound healing.
The dressings are typically backed with adhesive film or foam. Their design makes them easy to apply, and they are available in a variety of sizes and thickness levels.
Hydrogel dressings and designed for debridement and dry wound healing. They are produced to contain around 80% water, they are cohesive and provide a moist environment within which the wound can heal. Gelatin, cellulose and pectin particles are also present to help facilitate the healing process.
The dressings come in a number of different forms; as a gel, combined with a thin fibre mesh or as a saturated gauze pad.
Alginate dressings are those manufactured using carbohydrate sources and are best used on wounds such as burns, ulcers and surgical wounds (i.e. wounds with large amounts of exudate). This type of dressing usually requires a secondary layer to protect it.
Collagen dressings are manufactured to stimulate tissue growth and can be used on a number of different injuries. The bandages are infused with proteins, which encourage cells to reproduce, speeding up the healing process. Minor burns, ulcers, large open cuts and bed sores are just a few of the varieties of wound to which a collagen dressing is typically applied.
This type of dressing is also designed to minimise the risk of infection by controlling the amount of bacteria that builds up on the wound. The dressings are also manufactured to minimise irritation by staying compressed whilst feeling loose around the injury.
The dressings come in a number of forms, including powders, pads and gels. This means they can be applied to a variety of shapes and sizes of wound.
Contact layer dressings are manufactured using tightly bound mesh of a synthetic material, designed for the epithelialisation phase of healing (the stage that involves cells migrating across the new tissue to form a barrier between the wound and the outside environment). The dressings are designed to be comfortable, convenient and suit a variety of shapes of wound.
Active dressings are highly specialised types of wound dressing, which contain active substances to control unpleasant odours, protect against bacteria and stimulate healing. This category actually incorporates a number of different varieties of dressing, each of which contains substances such as bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) to facilitate wound healing.
Greasy dressings are produced to facilitate the epithelialisation phase of healing. They are made up of a loose mesh of cotton or viscose, which is then filled with a fatty substance such as a lipido-colloid.
This final category of dressing is manufactured to tackle wounds such as ulcers and lesions that produce odours. The carbon infused mesh has the ability to attract and absorb the molecules responsible for the odours, reducing the amount that is released from the wound.