What is the ideal wound product?

The previously accepted wisdom was that a wound healed best when it was kept as dry as possible. In 1962, George Winter, a British-born physician, published his ground-breaking wound care research. His paper, (Nature 193:293. 1962), entitled, “Formation of the scab and the rate of epithelization of superficial wounds in the skin of the young domestic pig,” demonstrated that wounds kept moist healed faster than those exposed to the air or covered with a traditional dressing and kept dry. Dr. Winter’s work began the development of modern wound dressings which are used to promote moist wound healing.

Natural skin is considered the ideal wound dressing, and therefore wound dressings have been designed to try to reproduce the advantages of natural skin. Today, experts feel that a wound dressing should have several characteristics if it is to serve its purpose. A wound dressing should:

  • Provide the optimal moisture needs for the particular wound
  • Have the capacity to provide thermal insulation, gaseous exchange, and to help drainage and debris removal, which promotes tissue reconstruction
  • Be biocompatible without causing any allergic or immune response reaction
  • Protect the wound from secondary infections
  • Be easily removable without causing any trauma to the delicate healing tissues.

There are hundreds of dressings to choose from, but they all fall into one of a few categories. The healthcare provider will select a dressing by category, according to availability and familiarity of using that particular dressing.

Occlusive dressings are those which are air- and water-tight. An occlusive dressing is frequently made with some kind of waxy coating to ensure a totally water-tight bandage. It may also consist of a thin sheet of plastic affixed to the skin with tape. An occlusive dressing retains moisture, heat, body fluids and medication in the wound. There are several types of occlusive dressings, which are discussed below.

It should be remembered that proper wound care, especially of a chronic wound, is a complex process, as much art as science; a trained healthcare provider assesses the wound as it goes through various stages, and applies the appropriate wound dressings as the need arises. Unfortunately, the most appropriate dressing is not always used, due perhaps to confusion around which type of dressing to apply, or because certain dressings—especially advanced dressings—either may not be available in the facility, or may not be reimbursed by the country’s healthcare system, or may simply be too expensive. This remains true even in some of the developed countries.

The following table summarizes potential applications for various types of wound care products, with selected examples. This summary is meant as a guideline and an illustration of the fact that different dressing types may find use in various types of wounds. In addition, as a wound heals, it may need a different type of dressing. Here again the wound care professional’s judgment and training come into play.

Dressing categoryProduct examplesDescriptionPotential applications
FilmHydrofilm, Release, Tegaderm, BioclusiveComes as adhesive, thin transparent polyurethane film, and as a dressing with a low adherent pad attached to the film.Clean, dry wounds, minimal exudate; also used to cover and secure underlying absorptive dressing, and on hard-to-bandage locations, such as heel.
FoamPermaFoam, PolyMem, BiatainPolyurethane foam dressing available in sheets or in cavity filling shapes. Some foam dressing have a semipermeable, waterproof layer as the outer layer of the dressingFacilitates a moist wound environment for healing. Used to clean granulating wounds which have minimal exudate.
HydrogelHydrosorb Gel Sheet, Purilon, Aquasorb, DuoDerm, Intrasite Gel, Granugel,Colloids which consist of polymers that expand in water. Available in gels, sheets, hydrogel-impregnated dressings.Provides moist wound environment for cell migration, reduces pain, helps to rehydrate eschar. Used on dry, sloughy or necrotic wounds.
HydrocolloidCombiDERM, Hydrocoll, Comfeel, DuoDerm CGF Extra Thin, Granuflex, TegasorbÕ Nu-DermMade of hydroactive or hydrophilic particles attached to a hydrophobic polymer. The hydrophilic particles absorb moisture from the wound, convert it to a gel at the interface with the wound. Conforms to wound surface; waterproof and bacteria proof.Gel formation at wound interface provides moist wound environment. Dry necrotic wounds, or for wounds with minimal exudate. Also used for granulating wounds.
AlginateAlgiSite, Sorbalgon Curasorb, Kaltogel, Kaltostat, SeaSorb, TegagelA natural polysaccharide derived from seaweed; available in a range of sizes, as well as in ribbons and ropes.Because highly absorbent, used for wounds with copious exudate. Can be used in rope form for packing exudative wound cavities or sinus tracts.
AntimicrobialBiatain Ag, Atrauman Ag, MediHoneyBoth silver and honey are used as antimicrobial elements in dressings.Silver: Requires wound to be moderately exudative to activate the silver, in order to be effective
NPWDSNaP, V.A.C. Ulta, PICO, Renasys (not in USA), Prospera PRO series, Invia LibertyComputerized vacuum device applies continuous or intermittent negative or sub-atmospheric pressure to the wound surface. NPWT accelerates wound healing, reduces time to wound closure. Comes in both stationary and portable versions.May be used for traumatic acute wound, open amputations, open abdomen, etc. Seems to increase burn wound perfusion. Also used in management of DFUs. Contraindicated for arterial insufficiency ulcers. Not to be used if necrotic tissue is present in over 30% of the wound.
Bioengineered Skin and Skin SubstitutesAlloDerm, AlloMax, FlexHD, DermACELL, DermaMatrix, DermaPure, Graftjacket Regenerative Tissue Matrix, PriMatrix, SurgiMend PRS, Strattice Reconstructive Tissue Matrix, Permacol, EpiFix, OASIS Wound Matrix, Apligraf, Dermagraft, Integra Dermal Regeneration Template, TransCyteBio-engineered skin and soft tissue substitutes may be derived from human tissue (autologous or allogeneic), xenographic, synthetic materials, or a composite of these materials.Burns, trauma wounds, DFUs, VLUs, pressure ulcers, postsurgical breast reconstruction, bullous diseases

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S251.

Wound Management Product Growth, Up and Down, to 2016

Excerpt from MedMarket Diligence report #S245, “Worldwide Wound Management, 2007-2016.” See link for more information. Available for purchase online.

Wound Management Market Growth by Segments, 2007-2016Technologies developed and in use for the management of acute and chronic wounds have diversified from traditional dressings, bandages and wound closure techniques to include an increasing number of diverse technologies ranging from tissue engineering, growth factors, physical therapies (e.g., negative pressure) and others. Traditional dressings and bandages have evolved to contain more active elements contributing to wound healing, with products including films, hydrocolloids, foams, alginates, hydrogels, non-adherents and antimicrobials. Wound closure is a specific area of intense development and market growth beyond traditional suturing and more recent stapling technologies and has seen proliferation and high market growth for surgical sealants, glues and hemostasis products.

The size of the worldwide wound management market is ultimately driven by the clinical need for advanced wound management products. That need is most clearly reflected in the prevalence of chronic wounds and burns. Current estimates put the total annual incidence of chronic wounds at almost 9 million worldwide, and there are 177 million cases of diabetes worldwide; 10-15% of diabetic patients will develop ulcers at some point. The market for products used in the management of venous stasis (as in chronic venous ulcers) is put at over $3 billion, while the decubitus ulcer (e.g., bedsores) market is in excess of $2 billion. Sales of products used to treat diabetic foot ulcers are estimated around $1.5 billion, and the market for burns dressings is approximately $60 million.

It should be noted that a large proportion of worldwide wound product sales are accounted for by traditional types of wound management products. An estimated two-thirds of the world’s physicians are not making routine use of advanced wound management products, with availability playing only a minor role in limiting their use. Conversely, while the U.S. healthcare market is characterized by an almost overindulgent attitude toward new technologies, U.S. physicians are much more conservative in their approach to advanced wound healing technologies than their European counterparts. For this reason, the European share of the advanced wound care market is significantly higher than the U.S. share.

Market Growth in Wound Management Product Segments
Until recently, the product categories with most growth potential were alginates and foams; both have substantial shares of the total market and both are set to increase their shares substantially between 2007 and 2016. Hydrocolloids had a considerable market share in 2007 but their star is in decline; it is anticipated that they will lose several percentage points in the market share table by 2016. (Segment growth in chart from MedMarket Diligence report #S245, “Worldwide Wound Management, 2007-2016,” publishing November 2007. See link for description, table of contents.)

The most significant market entrants are growth factors and, even more dramatically, physical therapies – specifically, negative pressure (also known as VAC therapy) devices. This market sector grew from a small base to gain $1.2 billion by 2007 and is set to capture an estimated 20% of the advanced woundcare market by 2016.

Films, antimicrobials and non-adherent dressings will maintain steady growth although their shares of a vigorously expanding market will decline.


Report #S245, “Worldwide Wound Management” is available for purchase online or via Google Checkout, below.