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How to Change a Wet-to-Dry Dressing

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Some wounds heal better when unhealthy or dead tissue is debrided from the affected area. An effective way to do this, and one that has been done for a long time, is the wet-to-dry dressing change. It is also an effective way to judge the healing of the wound or to check for signs and symptoms of infection. The general effect of wet-to-dry dressing changes is to help deep injuries heal from the inside out, and the physician usually establishes a dressing-change schedule.

Double-check the physician's orders.

Put on a pair of sterile gloves.

Remove the dressing around the edges and bunch the dressing to the center. If the dressing is stubbornly attached to the wound, dribble a bit of saline on the dressing and let it soak for a while.

Cleanse the wound gently with a sterile 4-by-4 and normal saline, taking care not to put too much pressure on the newly formed pink healthy granulation tissue.

Dab the area dry, and inspect the exudate left on the old dressing, noting color, consistency and odor, if any.

Assess the wound carefully.

Prepare the wet-to-dry dressing by moistening half a boat of sterile 4-by-4s with the normal saline.

Place the moist dressings directly on the wound, then place the dry ones.

Secure the dressings in place with paper tape.


Wash your hands before and after the dressing change.

Dispose of the old dressing and supplies in a proper container.


Excessive bleeding, tissue loss or signs of infection should be reported to the physician. These instances may alter the dressing-change regimen.

Remove the old dressing carefully; a new injury can delay or compromise the healing of the wound.

Make sure there is a doctor's order for a wet-to-dry dressing change. On some wounds, this type of dressing change will do more harm than good.