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What is a gelling fiber dressing?

Gelling fiber dressings are absorbent wound dressings.1 They contain synthetic fibers made from sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, strengthening cellulose fibres and other super-absorbent materials.

When these dressings absorb exudate into their fibers, a gel forms. This gel keeps the wound environment moist and, in this way, helps the wound to heal.2

Gelling fiber dressings are primary dressings (see the fact box). This means you apply them directly onto the wound, where the dressing has direct contact with the wound bed.1

Gelling fiber dressings can come in two forms:

  • a flat sheet form that is used for shallow wounds; and
  • a rope form that is used for wounds with deep cavities.1

What’s the difference between a primary and secondary dressing?

Primary dressings are placed directly on top of the wound. They are in direct contact with the wound bed and play a key role in the wound healing process.

Secondary dressings help maintain a moist environment, manage exudate and keep the primary dressing in place.

Sacral pressure ulcer with sloughy exudate. Example of a wound where a gelling fibre would be the recommended primary dressing

When should you use a gelling fiber dressing?

Research shows that gelling fiber dressings are suitable for wounds with moderate to high levels of exudate.4 In these types of wounds, the gelling fiber dressing absorbs and retains exudate. This controls the exudate levels in the wound. It also promotes wound healing and reduces the risk of periwound maceration (i.e. damage to the skin surrounding the wound).

Gelling fiber dressings are also useful in managing the gap, or ‘dead space’ between the dressing and the wound bed. Wounds with high exudate levels; deep cavities; or undermining, where there is a steep angle between the wound edge and bed, are all at a higher risk of exudate pooling.

Research shows that the optimal dressing for these wound types is one that conforms to the wound bed. Gelling fiber dressings can conform to and fill the wound cavity, so there is no space for the exudate to pool.

Gelling fiber dressings can also be used together with compression therapy.

  1. World Union of Wound Healing Societies (WUWHS), Consensus Document. Wound exudate: effective assessment and management. Wounds International, 2019
  2. NHS Clinical Review: Gelling Fibre Dressings (V2) 01.2018
  3. Gelling Fiber Wound Dressings – WoundSource. https://www.woundsource.com/product-category/dressings/gelling-fiber-dressings
  4. Tonny Karlsmark et. al. A new reinforced gelling fibre to reduce exudate pooling, Wounds International, vol 3. 2020

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