Amorphous hydrogel can easily be used in deep wounds.

Clinicians have widely used hydrogel dressings for more than 60 years, but for many patients, they still remain a somewhat obscure concept. There are several types of hydrogels, and the benefits of each can vary significantly. Here is a basic guide to the different varieties:

What are they?

Hydrogel dressings were developed to help regulate the fluid exchange on a wound surface – compounds from the hydrogel that assist in healing the skin layers, veins and tissues are exchanged with sodium and other discharge from the wound. Although hydrogels are made with a variety of different compounds, they are usually made up of about 90 percent water that is suspended in a gel base, and assists in providing the appropriate amount of moisture to assist the wound with healing. This can help the tissues debride, granulate and eventually heal fully.

Some hydrogels also provide cooling for the wound, helping to reduce any pain that may come about from the skin and wound surface healing. Because of the gel in the dressings, hydrogels can additionally be used to help mimic a flat surface of the tissues, filling in “dead space” or deeper sections of the wounds that would otherwise be hard to provide treatment to, and may assist in speeding up the healing process.

What type of wounds do they work for?

Hydrogel dressings are not beneficial for wounds with a lot of exudate (fluid discharge), but they are assistive for a multitude of others, including:

  • minor burns
  • painful wounds
  • partial thickness wounds
  • full thickness wounds
  • radiation damage
  • dry wounds

What are the different types of hydrogels?

Although there are a wide variety of hydrogels, there are three main types:

Sheet hydrogel: These dressings have the hydrogel suspended inside a thin mesh that can the overlap with skin and will not harm it – an issue that can occur with some other wound dressings. However, if the wound does stick to the skin surface at all, saturating it with saline solution will usually easily loosen it.

Although it is available in a number of sizes, the sheets can often be cut to fit the wound’s unique shape.

Impregnated hydrogel: This hydrogel is made by adding the gel compound into a gauze pad, a sponge rope or into gauze strips. This type of dressing often needs to be covered by a secondary dressing that covers the entire wound to provide full protection. The impregnated hydrogel can be laid over the wound, as well as packed into the wound if it is deep and/or uneven.

Amorphous hydrogel: Unlike the other two types of hydrogels, this dressing is free-flowing. Although rather viscous (thick), it is able to often flow into the nooks and crannies of puncture and other deep wounds. While it is the most flexible, it often needs to be covered by a secondary dressing so that it stays put and helpful in the wound surface.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.