Studies have generated much evidence to show that a moist wound environment is essential for wound healing. 

Advanced wound dressings (for example, alginate, film, foam, hydrocolloid and hydrogel dressings) regulate the wound surface by retaining moisture or absorbing exudate, so protecting the wound base and tissue surrounding the wound. Maintaining a good moisture balance minimises patient discomfort before, during and after dressing changes. Some dressings are used for their antimicrobial properties (for example, iodine, honey and silver dressings). Choice of dressing may change as the nature of the wound base and wound exudate changes. Therefore, the selection of dressings requires training and expertise in wound care.

Factors that should be considered when choosing a dressing include:

  • The stage of wound healing
  • Amount of exudate
  • Infection
  • Odour
  • The adhesiveness of a dressing (ease of removal)
  • Irritation caused by the adhesive
  • Absorption
  • The frequency of dressing changes
  • Ease of use of the dressing
  • Amount of pain at dressing changes
  • Protection of the surrounding skin
  • Patient preference

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on preventing and managing pressure ulcers and preventing and managing diabetic foot problems. The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN, accredited by NICE) has issued guidance on the management of chronic venous leg ulcers