Understanding drainage is just one component of predicting the outcome of a wound healing regimen.

Of all the side effects associated with wounds – including pain, swelling and redness, among others – drainage may be perhaps the most interesting. While fluid buildup can be a sign of serious complications, it can also be indicative of normal wound healing. It’s that very dynamic that makes understanding drainage important to the intricacies of effective wound healing. Here is everything you need to know about wound drainage:

What causes most kinds of wound drainage?

Just as there are many different causes of wounds, there is an equally diverse set of factors that influence drainage. According to the journal Wound Care Advisorsome amount of drainage is generally a good thing; in fact, doctors want wounds to be at least partially moist, as this can be seen as a natural byproduct of the healing process. However, external conditions can influence the amount of drainage, and this is where problems can develop for patients. Trauma to the wound site can illicit an increase in drainage. Especially high levels of bioburden – a term for external microbials – may also lead to excess drainage. Damage to the capillaries can cause excessive bleeding, which can influence drainage levels. More seriously, drainage can indicate increased inflammation or infection.

How much drainage is appropriate?

As mentioned above, it’s normal to expect a little bit of drainage. But what levels do doctors deem standard and at what point does drainage begin to pose certain health risks? To help differentiate healthy versus unhealthy drainage, most doctors utilize a very basic scale. If a wound is 25 percent saturated with moisture, it’s deemed minimal and mostly non-problematic. Saturation between 25 and 75 percent is considered moderate drainage, and is mostly still a non-issue. The drainage becomes a problem, though, when the saturation exceeds 75 percent, and this is where drainage can begin to interfere or prevent proper wound healing. Drainage levels can change quickly, depending on the cause, making constant monitoring a huge priority.

What kinds of drainage are most frequent?

For the most part, there are only minor variations in most drainage types, usually to do with color, odor and overall consistency. Despite these slight differences, it’s important to understand each form of drainage individually. The five main types are as follows:

  • Serosanguinous: This thin, pink-colored discharge is usually associated with normal wound recovery.
  • Purulent: Often a sign of infection, purulent discharge is generally thick and either green or yellow in color.
  • Seropurulent: Sometimes linked more mild infections, this is a yellow and especially cloudy form of drainage.
  • Serous: Though expected during the inflammation stage, serous drainage can later be indicative of severe infection.
  • Sanguinous: This type of drainage is most associated with broken capillaries, which explains its dark red color.

How do doctors and caregivers address wound drainage?

If the drainage is indicative of infection, doctors must then treat the underlying cause and resulting symptoms. However, even if an infection isn’t present, drainage must still be removed. According to report from the journal World Wide Wounds, doctors have a variety of ways to manage drainage. The most basic therapy is the use of dressings, and there are bandages designed for either absorption or regulating moisture content. Compression involves applying pressure to a wound as a means of controlling the flow of drainage. There are also several vacuum-assisted options, like negative pressure therapy, which not only remove drainage but also any bacteria or other toxic debris.

No matter the method, effective drainage means having the right wound care products, which is why so many people rely on Advanced Tissue. As the nation’s leader in the delivery of specialized wound care supplies, Advanced Tissue ships supplies to individuals at home and in long-term care facilities.