Wound Care

Whenever you have a wound, whether it’s a minor cut or a major incision, it’s crucial to care for it properly. Part of the process includes wound care dressings. There are a variety of options when it comes to dressings, and to determine which is the best and most effective depends on what sort of wound you have.

Wound specialists are health care professionals who have been trained in the care and treatment of all types of wounds, acute and chronic. Among the most commonly treated wounds are those sustained from an acute injury, surgical wounds, diabetic wounds and pressure sores.

Those suffering from wounds that will not heal experience a disruption to their everyday lives, and wound specialists can have a significant impact on their quality of life.

Who They Are

Nurses, a variety of specialty physicians, physical therapists/CHTs and medical technicians all work together as a multidisciplinary team to deliver care to patients with acute, chronic and non-healing wounds of all types. They work in acute care hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, home health agencies, clinics and other health care facilities.

Physical therapists/Certified hand Therapists in some health care facilities work with patients requiring wound care. They specialize in treatment modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, whirlpool and compression therapy, among others.

A key role of a wound specialist lies in patient and family education. Wounds heal differently for everyone and improvements are not seen overnight. Wound specialists need to demonstrate patience and compassion to their patients as they navigate the often-long road to recovery.

What is a wound care dressing?

A dressing is used by a doctor, caregiver and/or patient to help a wound heal and prevent further issues like infection or complications. Dressings are designed to be in direct contact with the wound, which is different from a bandage that holds the dressing in place.

Dressings serve a variety of purposes depending on the type, severity and position of the wound. Aside from the major function of reducing the risk of infection, dressings are also important to help:

What type of wound care dressing is right for my wound?

Hydrocolloid:

Hydrocolloid dressings are used on burns, light to moderately draining wounds, necrotic wounds, under compression wraps, pressure ulcers and venous ulcers.

Hydrogel:

This type of dressing is for wounds with little to no excess fluid, painful wounds, necrotic wounds, pressure ulcers, donor sites, second degree or higher burns and infected wounds.

Alginate:

Alginate dressings are used for moderate to high amounts of wound drainage, venous ulcers, packing wounds and pressure ulcers in stage III or IV.

Collagen:

A collagen dressing can be used for chronic or stalled wounds, ulcers, bed sores, transplant sites, surgical wounds, second degree or higher burns and wounds with large surface areas.

In addition to the wound product categories listed above, there are other wound dressings available, such as foams and compression in addition to secondary and cover dressings like wraps, gauze and tape.

What is a hand infection?

The hand can easily be injured during everyday activities. Any trauma to the hand, especially an injury that breaks the skin, may introduce damaging bacteria into the area that can cause an infection. Hand infections can include the nail, the tendons and their coverings, the joints and other structures deep within the hand.

What are the symptoms of a hand infection?

Symptoms of a hand infection include pain, redness, swelling, warmth, pus and loss of motion. Some finger infections cause the finger to be held in a bent position and extreme pain is felt if the finger is forced to straighten. A hand infection, if not treated early, can cause severe problems, such as stiffness in the wrist and fingers, decrease in hand strength and loss of tissues such as skin, nerve and bone.

What are the causes of a hand infection?

A simple cut or scrape that is not kept clean or a splinter left in a finger can develop a hand infection. One common cause of hand infections occurs when bacteria from the mouth of a person or animal gets into the body after the skin is broken. This may occur when the knuckle is split open by the edge of a tooth or after a cat or dog bite. Cellulitis is the result of a skin injury such as a cut, insect bites or from a healing surgery incision. It can spread into the bloodstream and cause serious problems. Other hand infections are the result of herpes virus or even some bone diseases.

What is the treatment for a hand infection?

A physician may run tests to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection in order to decide how to treat it. Some hand infections can be treated with antibiotics and rest. Others may require more involved treatments to drain the infection or remove infected or dead tissue and allow the skin to heal without complications. Hand therapy is usually recommended in more complicated hand infection cases.

What can a hand therapist do for me?

The hand therapist is an important team member in the treatment of hand infections. Treatment may include wound care (dressing changes), range of motion and strengthening exercises. The therapist may fabricate an orthosis to protect the injured area of the hand. An orthosis might also be made to improve joint motion once the infection is gone. The hand therapist’s goals are to assist the patient to regain as much motion, strength and function in their hand after a hand infection.