Wound Care Glossary of Terms

Wound care is a growing subspecialty of care and it has its own lexicon. Here we share some of the top terms you might hear medical professionals use if you or a loved one are dealing with a wound and its treatment.

Abrasion: A scraping or rubbing away of the skin.

Acute Wound: A fresh wound, less than a few days old.

Alginate Dressing: Natural wound dressings made from seaweed.

Antibiotic Ointment: Topical treatment that helps prevent infection in minor cuts, burns and scrapes.

Bioburden: The number of microorganisms living on a surface. Bioburden can affect the healing rate of a wound.

Biofilm: Microscopic structures present in chronic wounds that impair healing.

Bleeding: The release of blood from a broken blood vessel.

Burn: Damage to the skin caused by extreme heat or cold, flame, friction, chemicals or touching a very hot object. There are 4 degrees of burns: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.  Treatment depends on the depth, area and location of the burn.

Chronic Wound: Longstanding wound that shows no significant progress towards healing in 30 days.

Cleansing: Loosens and washes away bacteria and debris from the wound. Sterile saline is a commonly used irrigating solution.

Collagen Dressing: Dressing made from animal sources: bovine (cattle), equine (horse), porcine (pig). The collagen helps promote growth of new collagen at the wound site.

Compression Therapy: Form of wound care that uses gentle compression to increase blood flow activity in the lower limbs through strengthening vein support. Wound sufferers typically wear specifically designed stockings which help improve overall circulation and eliminate swelling.

Cut: Wound with separation, but no skin missing, typically caused by a sharp object.

Debridement: Removal of dead (necrotic) skin or tissue. The first step in the treatment of wound healing. There are four types: autolytic, enzymatic, mechanical and surgical.

Desiccated: Extreme dryness in a wound. Slows wound healing.

Diabetes: A disease that can cause slow healing of wounds. Wounds caused by diabetes are called neuropathic.

Dressings: Sterile pad or compress applied to a wound to promote healing and protect the wound from further harm. A dressing is designed to be in direct contact with the wound, which is different from a bandage, which typically holds a dressing in place. Types of dressings include: alginate, cloth, collagen, foam, hydrocolloid, hydrogel and transparent.

Edge: The outer borders of a wound. Types of edges include: diffuse, well-defined or rolled.

Environment: They type of surrounding the wound will best heal in - wet, moist or dry. Each has its own benefits, however a controlled wet or moist environment is frequently thought to better promote healing.

Eschar: Dead tissue that sheds or falls off a full or partial-thickness wound. Part of the healing process that may or may not need to be removed.

Epithelial Cells: Outermost layer of skin cells that regenerate across a wound surface from the edges to close the wound during healing.

Exudate: Wound drainage.

Foam Dressing: Covers and protects a wound while creating a moist environment conducive to healing. Can absorb large amounts of fluids, exudate.

Friction: When two forces run together. Common contributor to pressure ulcer formation.

Gauze: Used for dressing or packing wounds. Nonadherent gauze won’t stick to the wound or cause trauma during removal. Types of gauze include: pads, rolls, woven, nonwoven.

Granulation Tissue: Type of healing tissue that usually grows from the base of the wound and fills it. Normal granulation tissue has a beefy, red, shiny and textured appearance that bleeds easily.

Hydrogel Dressing: Water-based gel wound dressing that provides a moist environment for healing.

Hydrocolloid Dressing: Wound dressing made of particles like gelatin, pectin and cellulose. Manages wound drainage to help maintain a moist healing environment.

IAD (Incontinence Associated Dermatitis): Previously called perineal dermatitis. Condition characterized by inflammation and/or erosion of the skin after exposure to urine or stool.

Incision: A cut made into the skin during surgery.

Infection: The invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally present within the body. Signs of infection include: redness expanding around wound, increased swelling, increased pain or tenderness, discharge (yellow, off-white or green) draining from wound, change in smell (strong, unpleasant) and fever.

Inflammation: A localized condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.

Laceration: Torn or jagged wound caused by a sharp object.

Malnutrition: Lack of proper nutrition. Factor that can inhibit proper wound healing.

Maceration: The softening or breaking down of skin due to prolonged exposure to moisture.

MASD (Moisture-Associated Skin Damage): Skin injury characterized by the inflammation and erosion of the epidermis due to prolonged exposure to various sources of moisture and potential irritants (urine, stool, perspiration, wound exudate, ostomy effluent).

Microorganisms: A microscopic (invisible to the naked eye) organism, especially a bacterium, virus, or fungus.

Moisture Management: First step in treating MASD. Dressings, external collection devices, barrier creams, underpads, etc. can all be used to help absorb moisture and prevent it from macerating the skin.

Necrotic: Term typically used to describe dead tissue.

Odor: Smell given off by wounds; an important diagnostic tool that can help you gauge healing.

Offloading: Removing pressure from an affected area.

Periwound: The tissue surrounding a wound.

Petrolatum Dressing: Dressing saturated with petrolatum and designed to keep the wound environment moist. Nonadherent so it won’t cause trauma when the dressing is removed.

Plurogel: Hydrogel (water-based gel) wound dressing that provides a moist environment for healing. Especially useful for burns.

Primary Dressing: Dressing that goes directly over, and comes in contact with, the wound. A secondary dressing is typically placed over it in order to hold it securely in place.

Prophylactic Treatment: A medicine or treatment designed to minimize illness.

Pressure Ulcer: Localized area of tissue damage or necrosis that develop because of pressure over a bony prominence. Previously called pressure sores or bedsores.

Pressure Injury: Localized damage to the skin and underlying soft tissue usually over a bony prominence or related to a medical or other device. Caused by pressure or a combination of pressure and shear. Can present as intact skin or an open ulcer and may be painful.

Povidone-Iodine: Topical antiseptic used for skin disinfection and for the treatment and prevention of minor wound infection.

Saline Solution: Mixture of sodium chloride (salt) and water that is used to clean wounds.

Secondary Dressing: Dressing that does not touch a wound directly yet covers it completely. Typically a secondary dressing is placed over a primary dressing to help hold it securely in place.

Shear: Friction plus the force of gravity. Common contributor to pressure ulcer formation.

Skin Barrier: Outermost layer of skin cells (stratum corneum) plus the lipid matrix (ceramides, cholesterols and fatty acids) that holds those cells together.

Slough: Dead (necrotic) tissue separated from surrounding living tissue. Usually yellow/white.

Support Product: Complementary products designed to enhance wound healing outcomes. Examples include: compression systems, skin protectants, cover dressings, tapes, and wound cleansers.

Tear: Skin wound caused by shear, friction, and/or blunt force resulting in the separation of skin layers.

Tobacco Use: Lifestyle factor that negatively impacts wound healing.

Ulcer: A break in the skin that fails to heal as it should and is chronic.

Wound: A traumatic injury.