How often should your wound dressing be changed?

How often should your wound dressing be changed?

A critical component of wound care management is the frequency of dressing changes. Properly managing wound dressings can facilitate the healing process and reduce the risk of infection. However, knowing how often to change dressings can be confusing for many people. In this article, we will discuss how frequently you should change wound dressings to promote optimal healing and minimize complications.

Before delving into the frequency of changing wound dressings, it’s essential to understand the different stages of wound healing. Wound healing typically progresses through four primary phases: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. The time it takes for wounds to heal can vary depending on various factors such as the wound’s type, size, location, and overall health. Acute clean trauma wounds on a healthy individual should heal quickly. Wounds complicated by underlying diseases, mobility and malnutrition will have a prolonged healing journey.


Several factors influence how often wound dressings should be changed. These factors include the amount of drainage, infection, the healing stage, and the type of dressing used. Always consult with a healthcare professional for specific wound care instructions. Manufacturer product information will detail how a particular product should be used and should be used as a guideline for making a frequency of care plan. 


Moisture balance is a key component of wound healing and the type of dressing used should correspond to the wound presentation. The frequency of dressing changes will be modified as a wound progresses. Anticipate less product use over time as the wound gets closer to being closed and healed. The complexity of the wound products will also change from medical-grade products to ointments and scar care as the wound enters the remodeling and maturation stages.


Dry or minimally draining wounds produce little to no exudate and will require less frequent changes. Non-adherent dressings such as films or hydrocolloids are often suitable. These dressings can generally be left in place for several days unless otherwise instructed. If wounds are not progressing because they are too dry, a product that donates moisture will be helpful to encourage new tissue growth. Hydrogel or Collatek® collagen gel may be appropriate.


Wounds that produce moderate amounts of exudate may benefit from absorptive dressings, such as foams, alginates and collagen sheets or particles. These dressings may need to be changed every one to three days, depending on the amount of drainage coming through the cover dressing. As a general guideline, the dressing must be changed whenever the cover dressing is soiled or dislodged. It is very common to be told to change a dressing daily for ease of care and hygiene purposes. However, if a dressing is not soiled or loosened and all other factors appear to be under control, a dressing change could occur the following day.


Heavily draining or infected wounds often require more frequent dressing changes. Absorbent dressings, antimicrobial dressings, or prescription medicated products may require daily or twice daily changes as indicated by the prescription to maintain the active component in the wound bed. Post-operative surgical wounds may have specific dressing requirements based on the surgical procedure. Incision care is quite different than wound care. Incisions are typically stitched or stapled closed and kept dry with dressing meant to pad and protect. Some surgeons will use post-surgical dressings designed to be left in place for 10-14 days and allow for showering. Your surgeon should have provided detailed instructions in handouts as discharge instructions. When in doubt, contact your surgeon directly.


As wounds progress, expect the dressing change frequency and also the product used to change. Less drainage, smaller size and less depth are good indications of wound healing progression. With progression, changes in treatment will include less frequent changes and decreased need for drainage absorption. Products that were used for packing depth will be eliminated as the wound becomes more shallow. Highly absorbent dressings that were once necessary may begin to stick to the wound surface and can often be saturated with wound cleanser or saline to remove them without causing damage. 


There are many products on the market that have a variety of functions. Matching the dressing function with the wound presentation is a highly trained skill set. If your wound is not progressing and you’ve been using the same products for a long time, it may be time to determine the reason behind that. You may be in need of diagnostic testing at a wound center. If you have exhausted those options and have not tried collagen-based wound care products, contact to determine if Human BioSciences products including Collatek®, Medifil II® and Skintemp® might be appropriate for your situation. 

©2020 Human Biosciences, Inc. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice.