Wound Dressing Guide For Australia

Wound Dressing Guide For Australia

  • Prakash Bartaula
  • 16 June, 2024
13 Min Read

For wound dressing in Australia, use hydrogels for dry or necrotic wounds, hydrocolloids for managing exudate in partial-thickness wounds, alginates for heavily exudating wounds, foams for a range of wound types, and antimicrobial dressings with agents like silver or iodine for wounds at risk of infection.

Wound Dressing Guide For Australia

Effective wound care is a critical aspect of healthcare, as it plays a vital role in promoting healing, preventing complications, and improving patient outcomes. Wounds can arise from various causes, including surgical procedures, trauma, pressure injuries, and underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or vascular disease. Improper wound management can lead to severe consequences, including infection, delayed healing, increased healthcare costs, prolonged hospital stays, and reduced quality of life for patients.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide healthcare professionals with an in-depth understanding of wound assessment and management, emphasizing current evidence-based best practices. By combining theoretical knowledge with practical advice, this resource will equip healthcare providers with the necessary skills to deliver high-quality wound care and optimize patient outcomes.

wound dressing guide

Understanding Wound Types and Specific Considerations

Wounds can be classified into different categories based on their etiology, duration, and characteristics. Understanding the various types of wounds and their specific considerations is crucial for developing appropriate treatment strategies.

Acute Wounds

Acute wounds are caused by external factors such as cuts, abrasions, or surgical incisions. They typically heal within a predictable timeframe of 4-6 weeks if managed appropriately with proper wound care techniques. Examples of acute wounds include:

Lacerations: Cuts or tears in the skin caused by sharp objects or trauma. Proper cleansing, debridement (if needed), and dressing selection are crucial to prevent infection and promote healing.

Abrasions: Superficial wounds caused by friction or scraping against a rough surface. They may appear as a graze or scrape and require gentle cleansing and protection from further trauma.

Surgical wounds: Incisions made during surgical procedures. Factors such as surgical technique, wound closure method, and post-operative care can impact healing. Monitoring for signs of infection and proper dressing management are essential.

Chronic Wounds

Chronic wounds are those that fail to progress through the normal healing process and often result from underlying medical conditions or persistent external factors. These wounds require specialized treatment and may take months or years to heal completely. Common types of chronic wounds include:

Pressure injuries (bedsores): Localized damage to the skin and underlying tissue caused by prolonged pressure, shear, or friction. Proper pressure redistribution, wound care, and addressing underlying factors (e.g., nutrition, mobility) are crucial for healing.

Diabetic foot ulcers: Open sores on the feet that occur in individuals with diabetes, often due to neuropathy and poor circulation. Offloading pressure, glycemic control, and specialized wound care are essential for healing.

Venous leg ulcers: Wounds on the lower extremities caused by chronic venous insufficiency and impaired circulation. Compression therapy, elevation, and appropriate dressings are key components of treatment.

Arterial ulcers: Wounds resulting from impaired arterial blood supply, often seen in patients with peripheral artery disease. Revascularization procedures and specialized wound care may be necessary.

Burn Wounds

Burn wounds are classified based on the depth of tissue damage and can range from superficial to full-thickness burns. Proper assessment and management are crucial to prevent complications such as infection, scarring, and contractures.

Superficial burns: Involve only the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) and typically appear red and painful.

Partial-thickness burns: Extend into the underlying dermis and may present with blisters or weeping.

Full-thickness burns: Involve all layers of the skin and may appear dry, leathery, or charred. These burns often require surgical intervention and skin grafting.

Comprehensive Wound Assessment

Thorough wound assessment is the foundation for developing an effective treatment plan and monitoring progress. A comprehensive assessment should evaluate various factors, including wound characteristics, patient factors, and extrinsic factors that may impact healing.

wound dressing5

Wound Characteristics

Size: Measure the length, width, and depth of the wound using a sterile ruler or other standardized method. Tracking changes in size over time can indicate healing progress or deterioration.

Wound bed appearance: Assess the type of tissue present in the wound bed (e.g., granulation tissue, slough, eschar) and its color, which can provide clues about the healing status. Healthy granulation tissue appears beefy red or pink, while non-viable tissue may appear yellow, gray, or black.

Exudate: Evaluate the amount, type (e.g., serous, sanguineous, purulent), and odor of any drainage from the wound. Excessive or foul-smelling exudate may indicate infection or poor healing.

Wound edges and surrounding skin condition: Observe the characteristics of the wound edges (e.g., undermined, rolled, attached) and the condition of the surrounding skin (e.g., maceration, erythema, callus formation).

Pain Assessment

Pain can be a significant factor in wound care and should be assessed using standardized pain scales (e.g., numeric rating scale, visual analog scale) at each dressing change. Effective pain management is crucial for patient comfort, compliance with treatment, and promoting healing.

Infection Assessment

Signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, increased pain, purulent drainage, and warmth around the wound, should be monitored closely. Wound cultures may be necessary to identify the causative organism and guide antibiotic treatment if infection is suspected.

Patient Factors

Intrinsic factors that can affect wound healing include:

Age: Older adults may experience delayed healing due to physiological changes and comorbidities.

Nutritional status: Adequate protein, caloric intake, and micronutrients (e.g., vitamin C, zinc) are essential for wound healing.

Underlying medical conditions: Conditions like diabetes, vascular disease, and immunodeficiency can impair the healing process.

Medications: Certain medications, such as steroids, chemotherapy agents, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can negatively impact wound healing.

Extrinsic Factors

Extrinsic factors that can impact wound healing include:

Pressure, friction, and shear forces: Unrelieved pressure, friction, or shear forces can cause tissue damage and impede healing.

Moisture and temperature: Maintaining a moist wound environment and appropriate temperature can promote healing, while excessive moisture or dryness can delay the process.

Wound dressing selection and frequency of changes: Appropriate dressing selection and timely dressing changes are crucial for managing exudate, protecting the wound, and facilitating healing.

Evidence-Based Wound Management Strategies

Effective wound management involves a multidisciplinary approach and a combination of strategies tailored to the individual patient’s needs. The following evidence-based practices should be considered:

Wound Cleansing

Proper wound cleansing is essential for removing debris, exudate, and bacteria that can impede healing. Sterile saline or wound cleansers should be used, and the wound should be gently irrigated or cleaned with gauze. Avoid using harsh antiseptics or hydrogen peroxide, as they can damage healthy tissue and delay healing.


Debridement involves removing non-viable tissue (e.g., slough, eschar) from the wound bed to promote healing and prevent infection. Various methods can be used, depending on the wound type and patient factors:

Autolytic debridement: Using dressings that create a moist environment to promote natural breakdown of necrotic tissue by the body’s enzymes.

Enzymatic debridement: Applying topical enzymes (e.g., collagenase) to break down non-viable tissue.

Mechanical debridement: Using surgical instruments (e.g., scalpel, curette) or whirlpool therapy to physically remove non-viable tissue.

Biological debridement: Utilizing sterile maggots or larvae to selectively remove necrotic tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact.

Dressing Selection

Appropriate dressing selection is crucial for maintaining a moist wound environment, managing exudate, and protecting the wound from contamination and further trauma. Dressing types include:

Hydrogels: Water-based dressings that provide moisture and can be used for dry or necrotic wounds.

Hydrocolloids: Occlusive dressings that absorb exudate and create a moist environment, suitable for partial-thickness wounds.

Alginates: Highly absorbent dressings made from seaweed derivatives, ideal for moderately to heavily exudating wounds.

Foams: Absorbent and insulating dressings that can be used for various wound types, including heavily draining wounds.

Antimicrobial dressings: Dressings containing agents like silver, iodine, or polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) to help manage wound infection.

Adjunctive Therapies

In some cases, adjunctive therapies may be necessary to promote wound healing, especially for chronic or complex wounds. These include:

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT): A system that applies controlled negative pressure to the wound, promoting drainage, reducing edema, and stimulating tissue growth.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: Exposing the patient to 100% oxygen at increased atmospheric pressure, which can enhance oxygen delivery to the wound and promote healing.

Electrical stimulation: Applying low-level electrical currents to the wound, which can increase blood flow, reduce edema, and stimulate cellular processes involved in healing.

Growth factors and skin substitutes: Using topical growth factors or bioengineered skin substitutes to promote tissue regeneration and wound closure, particularly for chronic or complex wounds.

Pain Management

Effective pain management is essential for patient comfort, compliance with treatment, and promoting healing. Strategies may include:

Topical anesthetics: Applied to the wound bed before dressing changes or debridement to provide localized pain relief.

Oral or parenteral analgesics: Prescribed based on pain severity and patient tolerance, ranging from non-opioid analgesics (e.g., acetaminophen, NSAIDs) to opioid medications for moderate to severe pain.

Non-pharmacological interventions: Relaxation techniques, distraction, and positioning can help manage pain during wound care procedures.

Addressing Underlying Factors

Identifying and addressing underlying factors that may impair wound healing is crucial for successful wound management. These factors may include:

Nutritional deficiencies: Ensuring adequate protein, caloric intake, and micronutrients (e.g., vitamin C, zinc) through dietary modifications or supplementation.

Glycemic control: In patients with diabetes, optimizing blood glucose levels through medication, diet, and lifestyle changes can improve healing outcomes.

Vascular insufficiency: Revascularization procedures or medical management may be necessary for patients with arterial or venous insufficiency to improve blood flow and promote healing.

Pressure redistribution: Implementing pressure-relieving surfaces, positioning, and offloading devices to minimize pressure, friction, and shear forces on the wound.

Smoking cessation: Encouraging patients to quit smoking, as smoking can impair wound healing due to its effects on blood flow and tissue oxygenation.

Wound Care Procedure

Proper wound care technique is essential for ensuring patient safety, preventing cross-contamination, and promoting optimal healing. The following steps outline a general procedure for wound care:

  1. Gather necessary supplies: Assemble all required materials, including dressings, cleansing solutions, personal protective equipment (PPE), and any specialized equipment needed for the specific wound type or treatment.
  2. Perform hand hygiene and don appropriate PPE: Proper hand hygiene and the use of PPE (e.g., gloves, gowns, masks) are essential to prevent cross-contamination and maintain aseptic technique.
  3. Gently remove the old dressing: Carefully remove the old dressing, taking care not to disrupt the wound bed or cause unnecessary trauma.
  4. Assess the wound: Thoroughly assess the wound using the criteria outlined above (size, appearance, exudate, etc.), and document your findings.
  5. Cleanse the wound: Gently cleanse the wound using sterile saline or wound cleanser, irrigating or wiping with gauze to remove debris and exudate.
  6. Debride the wound (if necessary): If non-viable tissue is present, perform the appropriate debridement method based on the wound type and patient factors.
  7. Apply any topical medications or wound treatments: Follow prescribed orders for the application of topical antimicrobials, growth factors, or other wound treatments.
  8. Select and apply the appropriate dressing: Choose the most suitable dressing based on the wound characteristics, exudate levels, and treatment goals. Ensure proper coverage and secure the dressing in place.
  9. Dispose of used materials properly and perform hand hygiene: Discard all used materials in appropriate biohazard containers and perform hand hygiene after completing the procedure.
  10. Document the wound assessment and treatment: Thoroughly document the wound assessment findings, treatments performed, and any changes or concerns in the patient’s medical record.

Wound Care Procedure

Preventing and Managing Complications

Complications can arise during wound care, and it is essential to be aware of potential risks and take appropriate preventive measures. Common complications include:

Infection: Signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, swelling, purulent drainage, and fever, should be promptly addressed with appropriate antimicrobial treatment and wound management.

Maceration: Excessive moisture can lead to skin breakdown and impaired healing. Proper dressing selection and timely dressing changes can help prevent maceration.

Desiccation: Excessive dryness can delay healing and cause pain. Maintaining a moist wound environment with appropriate dressings is crucial.

Bleeding: Excessive bleeding may occur, especially in patients with coagulation disorders or those taking anticoagulant medications. Applying pressure and seeking prompt medical attention may be necessary.

Pain: Inadequate pain management can lead to patient discomfort, anxiety, and non-compliance with treatment. Regular pain assessments and appropriate analgesic therapy are essential.

To prevent and manage complications, it is essential to:

  • Maintain proper aseptic technique and follow infection control protocols.
  • Monitor for signs of infection and address promptly with appropriate treatment.
  • Select appropriate dressings and change them as needed to manage exudate and maintain a moist wound environment.
  • Provide adequate pain management and involve a multidisciplinary team (e.g., pain specialists, physical therapists) as needed.
  • Address underlying factors that may impair healing, such as nutritional deficiencies, pressure redistribution, and glycemic control in diabetic patients.
  • Educate patients and caregivers on proper wound care techniques, signs and symptoms to monitor, and when to seek medical attention.

Multidisciplinary Approach and Collaboration

Effective wound care requires a collaborative effort among various healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, wound care specialists, physical therapists, dietitians, and other allied health professionals. A multidisciplinary approach ensures that all aspects of the patient’s care are addressed, and treatment plans are tailored to individual needs.

Regular communication and coordination among the healthcare team are essential for ensuring continuity of care and optimizing patient outcomes. Multidisciplinary team meetings or rounds can facilitate information sharing, discussion of treatment plans, and identification of potential barriers to healing.

Additionally, involving patients and caregivers in the wound care process is crucial. Providing education on wound care techniques, recognizing signs and symptoms of complications, and promoting adherence to treatment plans can empower patients and caregivers to actively participate in their care.

Wound Care Documentation and Monitoring

Accurate and comprehensive documentation is a critical component of wound care management. Detailed records should include:

  • Initial wound assessment findings (size, appearance, exudate, etc.)
  • Treatment plans and interventions performed
  • Progress notes documenting changes in wound characteristics over time
  • Any complications or adverse events
  • Patient education and involvement in care

Standardized wound assessment tools, such as the Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing (PUSH) tool or the Bates-Jensen Wound Assessment Tool (BWAT), can provide a systematic approach to documentation and facilitate consistent monitoring of wound healing progress.

Regular monitoring and reassessment of the wound are essential for evaluating the effectiveness of the treatment plan and making necessary adjustments. Techniques such as acetate tracing, serial photography, or digital wound measurement systems can aid in accurately tracking changes in wound size and characteristics over time.

Continuous Education and Quality Improvement

Wound care is a rapidly evolving field, with ongoing research and advancements in products, techniques, and best practices. Healthcare professionals should prioritize continuous education and stay up-to-date with the latest evidence-based guidelines and recommendations.

Attending conferences, workshops, or online courses focused on wound care can provide opportunities for professional development and exposure to new knowledge and skills. Additionally, participating in quality improvement initiatives, such as audits or peer review processes, can help identify areas for improvement and promote the implementation of best practices within healthcare facilities.

Collaboration with wound care experts, such as certified wound care nurses or physicians specializing in wound management, can also enhance knowledge and facilitate the adoption of evidence-based practices.


Prakash Bartaula

Joined : 5 April, 2024

I’m deeply passionate about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and dedicated to exploring its intricacies. Through research, communication, and writing, I aim to shed light on NDIS provisions and empower individuals with disabilities. Join me as we navigate the transformative potential of the NDIS together.

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