Hydrocolloid wound dressings are wound fluid absorbing, moist inducing wound care products. The dressings come in sheets, pastes (gels), and powders and are widely used in hospitals and surgical centers. Nowadays they are also available as over the counter products for use at home.
Hydrocolloid dressings are occlusive, adhesive, and absorbent and are suitable for light to moderate exuding wounds. Hydrocolloid dressings are also available with increased absorptive capacity
Wounds heal faster with these special bandages so they can help speed recovery after surgery.
What Exactly Are Hydrocolloid Dressings and How Do They Work?
Colloid (meaning and definition). (a.) Resembling glue or jelly; characterized by a jellylike appearance; gelatinous;
Hydrocolloid dressings provide a beneficial moist wound healing environment and stimulate the physiological healing process of the wound. When fluids from the wound come into contact with the hydrocolloid dressing, it interacts and forms a gel that covers the wound and keeps the wound hydrated.
Here’s more info on whether to keep wounds moist or dry.
A dressing is described as “material applied to protect a wound and favor its healing”
On the picture are shown . Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson.
Benefits of using Hydrocolloid Dressings
They also diminish bacterial growth by lowering the pH of a wound. The wafer shaped formulation of the hydrocolloid material allows the bulk of the gel to be removed with the bandages, resulting in little or no damage to the newly formed tissue. All off the benefits:
- easy to use
- stimulate wound healing process
- captures wound malodors
- clean up wounds (by autolytic debridement)
- impenetrable by bacteria and other contaminants
- transparency allows non-invasive wound assessment
- are waterproof so they will stay adhesive while showering
- removal of dressing doesn’t cause damage to the newly formed tissue and is only necessary after 3 to 5 days
“Hydrocolloids are easy to use, require changing only every 3-5 days, and do not cause trauma on removal. This makes them useful for clean, granulating, superficial wounds, with low to medium exudate.
Hydrocolloids provide effective occlusion; with dry wounds, they can have a softening effect, and they have been used to prevent the spread of MRSA (by providing a physical occlusive barrier).”
Source: Thomas, S., Hydrocolloids Journal of Wound Care 1992:1;2, 27-30
Courtesy picture: Zhejiang Kanglidi Medical Articles Co., Ltd.
Study Demonstrates Benefits Hydrocolloid Dressings
Moist wounds heal more quickly.
Boosting tissue regrowth: “Wounds in wet, moist, and dry environments were completely epithelialized * on days 6, 7, and 8, respectively.
* = To become covered with epithelial tissue, as of a wound.
Less dead skin cells and faster regrowth of new skin: “In comparison to dry wounds, the moist or the wet healing environment resulted in less necrosis and faster and better quality of healing in the formation of the newly regenerated epidermis.”
When To Use Hydrocolloid Dressings
Hydrocolloid dressings are suitable to use on mild to moderate exuding wounds such as ulcers. Also acute and chronic wounds and other difficult healing wounds can benefit from these dressings.
They can also be used on dry wounds in which case they have shown to have a softening effect.
For heavy exuding wounds other dressings such as alginate dressings are recommended. This because oversaturation of the hydrocolloid dressing may lead to leakage of the gelatinous substance, causing maceration of the surrounding skin.
How To Use Hydrocolloid Wound Dressings
The dressing should always be administered on an area larger than the wound itself. Sometimes, depending on the location on the body, it can be useful to secure the edges of the dressing with tape.
A hydrocolloid dressing should be kept in place until it is saturated or be changed after 3 to 5 days. If it is necessary to replace it daily this indicates there’s too much wound exudate for the particular hydrocolloid technology. There are differences between brands and also the way the dressings are applied influence the amount of drainage that can be absorbed. (Proper application may lead to more absorption.)
Hydrocolloid Dressing Side Effects?
The risk on complications due to the use of hydrocolloid dressings is very low. However there are some aspects that should be taken into consideration.
- Occlusion may promote infection in high risk patients (anaerobic infection)
- In case the surrounding skin on the wound site is very fragile it may damage when the dressing is removed
- An unpleasant odor may exist upon removal.
- Also a residue may stay behind. This residue may wrongly seem to indicate an infection.
- oversaturation of the dressing (e.g. with heavy exuding wounds) may lead to skin
Hydrocolloid Dressings Are Well Reviewed
“Great Great great Product. Really helped my daughters wounds to heal. Wonderful.
“Seems to be working well to heal stage two ulcer from old spider bite. Just wish the cover sheets were different colors or printed with words front back or top bottom or this side up and this side towards wound. (3M Tegaderm)
Hydrocolloid Dressing Tips
- Hydrocolloid wound dressings adhere best at body temperature. By placing your hand over the dressing after application you can ensure proper placement.
- Dressings with thick edges, as well as very thin dressings may ‘roll up’ and stick to clothing and bed sheets. On the other hand, too thick dressings may not be pliable enough which reduces the ability for proper application. It is commonly recommended to opt for medium thick dressings.
- Keep in mind that the skin surrounding the wound must be resistant enough to tolerate the sticky dressing being pulled off. When removed the skin shouldn’t get damaged.
Hydrocolloid Brands, Products, and Manufacturers
Brands are Tegasorb produced by 3M, Cutinova Hydro and Thin by Smith and Nephew, Nu-derm by Johnson & Johnson, Dermafilm by Dermarite, Duoderm and Signadress by ConvaTec, Comfeel by Coloplast, Hydrocol by Bertek and dressings manufactured by Replicare and Invacare.
The most popular brands are Tegaderm, Duoderm, and Medihoney.
What In Case of an Infection?
Medihoney dressings contain medical grade, sterile, doctor and FDA approved manuka honey. These dressings are also available in sheet and paste form. Results have been outstanding. There are several cases in which untreatable wounds turned out to heal after the use of these dressings. In one case a man was even spared of leg amputation.
Want to know more? Check out the many, very positive reviews on or read more here on Medihoney wound dressings.
Difference Between Hydrogel and Hydrocolloid Dressings
Both maintain a moist environment but hydrocolloid dressings have the capacity to absorb mild to medium exudate or drainage where hydrogel does not.
Where To Get Hydrocolloid Wound Dressings?
Hydrocolloids are available at CVS, Wallgreens and similar stores and online on .
The Best Selling Hydrocolloid Wound Dressings
3M Tegaderm, DuoDerm Extra Thin, and Convactec Duoderm are the best selling hydrocolloid wound dressings on Amazon. Note that the Duoderm Extra Thin is a hydrocolloid moisture-retentive wound dressing for superficial wounds with little or no exudate and for early intervention on those at-risk for skin breakdown.
Do Hydrocolloid Dressings Fade Scars?
I know of one study in which the use of hydrocolloid dressings in order to improve scar appearance was examined. There was an expectancy of success since most scientists agree that the probable action of proven effective silicone gel is hydration.
The conclusion of the study was that scar itch, pain, and softness (pliability) did improve but its appearance (shape, size, color) did not. Therefore we can conclude that there are better .
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Here’s an abstract of a study on post-operative orthopedic surgery and the benefits of hydrocolloid dressings. More specifically; the study was conducted to “determine the frequency of superficial surgical site infection (SSSI) and blister formation in post-operative orthopaedic patients with the use of hydrocolloid dressings.” Abstract: .