The management of wounds represents a considerable burden on any healthcare clinic as it consumes substantial human and financial resources. Chronic wounds are becoming an increasingly costly health issue, especially as the country's population ages.

The efficient management of medical consumables becomes very important in this resource hungry area. Keeping up with new products in the market can be sometimes overwhelming when running a busy practice.

Here is a quick overview of the latest wound care products to ensure you are using the appropriate ones and making cost effective choices.

Alginate Dressings

These are highly absorbent, soft dressings that mould themselves to the wound. They are formed from calcium and sodium fibres originating from seaweed.

Being non-adhesive they can be used for packing a deep wound. They are easily removed and will not damage new tissue. They are suitable for wounds needing moderate to heavy drainage — for example, in the treatment of pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and venous ulcers.

Alginates are also ideal for ulcers in difficult spots such as the heels and sacral areas.

Foam Dressings

These are available in a variety of thicknesses which are designed to absorb a large quantity of fluid and cell exudate.

They create a moist environment while preventing bacteria and contaminants from entering. Foams are generally made from polyurethane and are non- adhesive. These products are used as either a primary dressing with direct skin contact or as a secondary protective cover.

A variety of wounds can be treated with foam including incisions and lacerations, infected wounds and ulcers.

Hydrogel Dressings

These are designed for keeping a dry wound moist and therefore have limited absorption capacity.

They are most useful for treating wounds that extend below the surface of the skin, but are not advised for heavily draining wounds.

These products are ideal for treating necrotic wound areas as they promote the destruction of the dying cells or tissues by using their own enzymes.

Hydrocolloid Dressings

These products come in a number of thicknesses and sizes and are most often used as a secondary dressing. as they have very little absorptive capability.

They are best for non-infected wounds, dry wounds and for protections of newly healed wounds.

They can be left for several days without disturbance to minimize new tissue damage.

Of course, technology is continuing to provide new and exciting solutions in the medical field. Wound care will soon be able to take advantage of the digital technologies behind smart phones and tablets. This is an area that you need to keep well informed about as it can have a major impact on costs.

Smart Bandages

Several companies are currently incorporating the technology into dressings and some of the products have already reached the marketplace, while clinical trials for different versions of bandages and dressings are planned for the near future. These dressings will be capable of gathering and analyzing the wound healing process and report the data to medical care providers.

Microscopic sensors in the layers of the dressings are able to recognize any complications such as infections or blood clots and send alerts to patients or health care professionals via a smart phone app.

At present, the only way to check the progress in a wound is to physically remove the dressing, This can cause unnecessary discomfort for the patient and consume valuable time and clinician resources. It may also damage new cell growth and set back the healing process.

To be able to leave the dressing in place and have it report the status of the wound is a huge advantage.

The issue of resources is front and centre today in the majority of healthcare settings. Therefore, having a system in place that can assist in preventing redundant work is going to put your facility at a distinct advantage.