Foam wound dressings are typically made of polyurethane or silicone . They are permeable, allowing them to absorb exudate and fluids from wounds. Typically, they have an inner layer that attracts water and lies directly on the wound and an outer layer that repels water and stops leaks. Furthermore, foam dressings can be non-adherent or adherent and are available in various thicknesses . Adhesion to the surrounding skin, typical of adherent foam dressings, helps maintain the dressing's position and prevents exudate from moving along the skin, reducing skin irritation and leakage. However, adhesion can also cause irritation, particularly if the skin is delicate or when the wound dressing is changed frequently. In contrast, non-adherent foam dressings usually require a secondary wound dressing to keep them in place .
Additionally, most foam wound dressings have a film backing that serves as a water and microbe-resistant barrier. The permeability of the film backing of foam dressings varies, affecting how much water can evaporate and how much gas can pass through .
Foam dressings are frequently used by wound care specialists and other medical professionals because of their many advantages for wound healing. Although no single dressing has all the features of an ideal wound dressing, foam wound dressings are close to perfect. Some of its many merits include the following;
- It creates a moist wound environment: It is the primary benefit of foam dressings. The presence of a moist wound milieu is essential for optimum wound healing . Foam dressings can maximize the amount of moisture in the wound environment, promoting wound healing.
- It can be easily removed without causing pain: Sometimes, removing wound dressings cause patients pain. However, foam wound dressings are designed to be easily removed during wound dressing changes . They conform gently to the shape of the wound without adhering to the wet skin, allowing for painless wound dressing removal and minimal damage to the surrounding skin.
- They have an excellent absorption capacity: A major feature of foam dressings is their ability to absorb significant quantities of exudate or fluids from wounds, making them the ideal choice of wound dressings for wounds producing copious amounts of exudates like bed sores . Additionally, studies show that foam dressings effectively prevent and reduce the severity of pressure ulcers. Typically, foam dressings have an absorption layer that immediately removes moisture from wounds preventing maceration of the surrounding skin . They also have a spreading layer that distributes the exudate uniformly throughout the entire surface to prolong the effectiveness of the dressing. Also, the retention layer absorbs and stores exudate, allowing layers closest to the wound (the absorption layer) to continue absorbing fluid.
- They are versatile: Foam dressings are very flexible, making them appropriate for application on different types of wounds and in different anatomical areas. They can be trimmed to fit the size of different wounds and can be used to pack wound cavities.
- They have antimicrobial properties: Foam dressings typically have a film backing that keeps bacteria out of wounds and prevents contamination .
- They are cost-effective: Foam wound dressings are affordable and have a long shelf life.
Foam dressings can be used as both main and secondary wound dressings for partial and full-thickness wounds with mild, moderate, or extensive exudates . Specific medical indications include;
- Leg ulcers
- Bed sores
- Skin transplants
- Small burns
- Infected wounds
- Absorption of drainage around tubes (e.g., tracheostomy or gastrostomy tubes)
- Wound cavities
- Stoma and peri-stomal injuries
- Wound requiring negative pressure treatment.
Contra-indications to foam dressings
Foam dressings are associated with a few disadvantages. They include;
- Foam dressings are not ideal for dry eschar because they can cause wounds to desiccate .
- The wound may become dry if there is either no exudate or insufficient exudate to be absorbed.
- Maceration of the skin around the wound may happen if the dressing and surrounding skin become saturated with exudate.
- Foam dressings are opaque, so clinical monitoring and assessment of the wound bed might be difficult.
Foam wound dressings may be the best option for you, so it's crucial to know how to apply and remove them if your doctor recommends them for your wound care. Here are some instructions you can follow to use this product properly.
- Clean the wound and surrounding skin with saline solution.
- After that, dry the skin around the wound with a sterile gauze
- Apply the dressing so that it extends at least an inch past the margins of the wound.
- Cover with additional dressing if required (If it is a non-adherent foam dressing, a tape or bandage may be required to keep it in place).
- You can remove the dressing by stripping it off.
Here are some things to be cautious about when using foam dressings. They include;
- Not every foam dressing is appropriate for use on infected wounds. Therefore, before use, examine the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Use skin protectants and wipes to prevent maceration of the surrounding skin.
- Make sure you secure non-adherent foam dressings with tape or bandage.
- Certain antiseptics can deteriorate foam wound dressings. Antiseptics should therefore be used with caution .
Foam dressings are a vital wound care product, especially for injuries with substantial exudates.
- Agarwal, A., McAnulty, J. F., Schurr, M. J., Murphy, C. J., & Abbott, N. L. (2011). Polymeric materials for chronic wound and burn dressings. In Advanced Wound Repair Therapies (pp. 186–208). Elsevier. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/foam-dressing#
- Fogh, K., & Nielsen, J. (2015). Clinical utility of foam dressings in wound management: a review. Chronic Wound Care Management and Research, 2, 31. https://doi.org/10.2147/cwcmr.s50832
- Hess, Cathy Thomas. (2003). Product File: Foam dressings. Advances in Skin & Wound Care, 16(6), 278. https://doi.org/10.1097/00129334-200311000-00003
- Woo, K. Y., Coutts, P. M., Price, P., Harding, K., & Sibbald, R. G. (2009). A randomized crossover investigation of pain at dressing change comparing 2 foam dressings. Advances in Skin & Wound Care, 22(7), 304–310. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ASW.0000305483.60616.26
- Santamaria, N., Gerdtz, M., Sage, S., McCann, J., Freeman, A., Vassiliou, T., De Vincentis, S., Ng, A. W., Manias, E., Liu, W., & Knott, J. (2015). A randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of soft silicone multi-layered foam dressings in the prevention of sacral and heel pressure ulcers in trauma and critically ill patients: the border trial: Randomised controlled trial. International Wound Journal, 12(3), 302–308. https://doi.org/10.1111/iwj.12101