Bandages and dressings


Bandages and dressings are both used in wound management. A bandage is a piece of cloth or other material used to bind or wrap a diseased or injured part of the body. Usually shaped as a strip or pad, bandages are either placed directly against the wound or used to bind a dressing to the wound. A dressing can consist of a wide range of materials, sometimes containing medication, placed directly against the wound.


The purposes served by dressings include protecting wounds; promoting healing; and providing, retaining, or removing moisture. Bandages can be used to hold dressings in place, to relieve pain, and generally to make the patient comfortable. Elastic bandages are useful to provide ongoing pressure on wounds such as varicose veins, fractured ribs, and swollen joints.


In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in the design and composition of bandages and dressings. The field is becoming increasingly complex, and there are numerous reports of health care workers applying inappropriate products. Wound-care materials come in a wide variety of product classes, including the following:

Just as there is a large selection of bandage and dressing products to choose from, there is also a broad range of applications for these products:

Recommended intervals between dressing changes vary widely among product classes. The materials used in some dressings require that they be changed several times a day. Others can remain in place for one week. Manufacturer's directions should be consulted and followed.


Wounds require appropriate cleaning, debridement, closure, and medication before bandages and dressings are applied.

Determining the cause of wounds is often very important, especially the cause of chronic wounds such as skin ulcers. A physician should be advised of any signs of infection or other changes in a wound.

Wound-care nursing is a rapidly advancing field that requires considerable training, clinical experience, and judgment, causing some observers to predict that it will eventually develop into an advanced practice nursing or a specialty-based practice. Increasingly, the demands on wound-care nurses are expected to require that they undertake graduate studies. For all nurses working in the field, ongoing education is a must to keep up with new knowledge, technologies, and techniques. Numerous organizations and institutions offer continuing education courses in wound care management.


Wounds that receive appropriate and timely care are most likely to heal in an acceptable manner.

See also Incision care ; Wound care .



Brown, P., D. Oddo, and J. P. Maloy. Quick Reference to Wound Care. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2003.

Mani, Raj. Chronic Wound Management: The Evidence for Change. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2002.

Milne, C. T., L. Q. Corbett, and D. Duboc. Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Secrets. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus, 2002.

Peitzman, Andrew B. The Trauma Manual, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002.


Atiyeh, B. S., K. A. El-Musa, and R. Dham. "Scar Quality and Physiologic Barrier Function Restoration after Moist and Moist-exposed Dressings of Partial-thickness Wounds." Dermatolic Surgery 29 no. 1 (2003): 14–20.

King, B. "Pain at First Dressing Change after Toenail Avulsion: The Experience of Nurses, Patients and an Observer: 1." Journal of Wound Care 12 no. 1 (2003): 5–10.

Ovington, Liza G., PhD. "Know Your Options for Secondary Dressings." Wound Care Newsletter 2, no. 4 July 1997 [cited March 24, 2003]. vol2n4/prpt2.htm .

Skelhorne, G., and H. Munro. "Hydrogel Adhesives for Wound-care Applications." Medical Device Technology 13 no. 9 (2002): 19–23.

St. Clair, K., and J. H. Larrabee. "Clean versus Sterile Gloves: Which to Use for Postoperative Dressing Changes?" Outcomes Management 6 no. 1 (2002): 17–21.


American Academy of Family Physicians. 11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway, Leawood, KS 66211-2672. (913) 906-6000. E-mail: .

American College of Physicians. 190 N. Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106-1572. (800) 523-1546, x2600, or (215) 351-2600. .

American Medical Association. 515 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60610. (312) 464-5000. .

American Nurses Association. 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 100 West, Washington, DC 20024. (800) 274-4262. .

American Red Cross National Headquarters. 2025 E Street, NW, Washington DC 20006. (202)303-4498. .

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. PO Box 372, CH-1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland. +41 22 730 42 22. Email: .

Search and Rescue Society of British Columbia. PO Box 1146, Victoria, BC V8W 2T6. (250)384-6696. .

Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society. 1550 South Coast Highway, Suite #201, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. (888) 224-9626. .


National Library of Medicine. [cited March 24, 2003].

L. Fleming Fallon, Jr, MD, DrPH

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