What is an Alginate Dressing And How To Use Calcium Alginate Dressing?

What is an Alginate Dressing And How To Use Calcium Alginate Dressing?

Introduction     |     Types     |     How to Use?

Alginate Dressings are used to cover or fill a variety of wound areas including those colonized heavily with pathogenic bacteria. They are composed of calcium and sodium fibers derived from seaweed. This absorbent seaweed dressing can absorb moderate to large amounts of drainage and can also control minor bleeding. Alginate wound dressings help in maintaining moist healing environment and promotes formation of granulation tissue. Their ability to mold themselves into the shape of the wound ensures proper drainage absorption. An individual dressing can absorb up to 20 times its own weight.

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Alginate Dressing - Works as a Primary Dressing

Alginate dressings usually work as primary dressings. As they are non-adherent, they need a secondary dressing to hold them in place. The way in which the alginate dressing interacts with the sodium and calcium ions of the wound exudate is determined by its intrinsic properties. This further determines the absorbent and adsorbent characteristics of the dressing. In the calcium alginate dressings, calcium ions of the dressing interact with sodium ions of the wound exudate. The water-insoluble calcium alginate dressing fibers are converted into water-soluble sodium alginate. As a result, a gel is formed which entraps and deactivates the bacteria that are carried by wound exudate into the dressing. The gel so formed can be lifted off while removing the dressing or rinsed away with sterile saline water.

Types of Alginate Dressings

There are different types of alginate dressings based on the shape and contents of the dressing.

Based on the Shape: Alginate wound dressings come in the form of sheets and ropes.

  • Sheet Dressing: The sheet dressings are easy to place on open ulcers, deep wounds, cavities, and sinuses.

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  • Rope Dressing: The calcium alginate rope dressings are used for packing narrow wounds. These dressings should not be used on dry or lightly exuding wounds because they can dry out the wound making the dressing removal difficult.

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Based on the Contents: Based on the contents of the alginate wound dressing, there are two types of dressings, namely, CMC dressing and silver alginate dressing.

  • Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) Dressings: CMC dressings are highly absorptive and made from the natural cellulose sources. They form a moist transparent gel on absorbing the wound exudate and prevents the exudate from re-entering into the wound. They also isolate the inflammatory cells, especially neutrophils, to help fasten the process of wound healing. CMC alginate dressings provide a moist healing environment and support autolytic debridement. Their fiber strength makes them appropriate for packing the sinus cavities loosely. Example - Biatain Alginate Dressings
  • Silver Dressings: Some alginate wound dressings have antimicrobial agents, like silver, incorporated into them for use on infected and heavily exuding wounds.

Features of Alginate Wound Dressing

  • Moderate to high absorbency
  • Low adherence allows for trauma-free removal
  • Hemostatic
  • Close conformity to the wound bed is provided by the sheet and rope options
  • Reduced requirement for dressing changes
  • Suitable for use on infected wounds
  • Protect the underlying structures and exposed tissue from dehydration during surgical procedures

When is Alginate Dressing Used?

  • Moderate to heavily draining wounds
  • Partial and full-thickness wounds
  • Pressure ulcers (Stages III and IV)
  • Diabetic foot ulcers (Level II)
  • Hemostasis on postoperative wounds
  • Tunnels or cavity wounds
  • Surgical incisions
  • Dermal wounds
  • Burn wounds
  • Donor sites
  • Infected wounds
  • Sinus tracts

Contraindications of Alginate Wound Dressing

  • Dry eschar containing no exudate to activate the dressing
  • Wounds with heavy bleeding
  • Surgical implantations
  • Third-degree burns

How to Use an Alginate Dressing?

  • Clean the wound area using a normal saline solution.
  • Pat dry the area around the wound.
  • Gently put the alginate dressing over the wound surface.
  • Secure the alginate dressing with the secondary dressing to hold it in place.
  • The dressing should be changed every 1 to 3 days, or when the fluid starts coming out from the dressing edges.
  • Use saline water to damp the dressing before removing it. This will allow for pain-free removal.


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