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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is debridement?

Debridement is the removal of infected, damaged, or dead tissue so a wound can heal properly. You may need more than one debridement.

What are selective methods of debridement?

Selective methods only remove the infected, damaged, or dead tissues. You may need any of the following:

  • The autolytic method uses your own wound fluid to separate the healthy tissue from the dead tissue. Your wound is covered with bandages to keep the wound bed moist. The proteins in your wound fluid will change dead and hard tissue into liquid. Your wound is then washed to remove the liquefied tissue waste.
  • The biosurgery method uses sterile maggot larvae, which release enzymes that break down the tissue. The larvae digest bacteria in the wound, and the enzymes prevent new bacteria from growing on the wound.
  • The enzymatic method uses protein enzyme medicine that works by digesting and melting the tissue.
  • The hypobaric method uses a foam bandage and a suction tube on the cleaned wound. It is sealed with a clear, see-through bandage to create suction on the wound. The suction pulls out and removes dead tissues and extra fluids. This causes new, healthy tissue to grow.
  • The surgical method is used for large or severely infected wounds. Surgical tools, such as a scalpel, forceps, or scissors are used.

What are nonselective methods of debridement?

Nonselective methods remove the infected, damaged, or dead tissue and may also remove nearby healthy tissue. The wound may look bigger after debridement. You may need any of the following:

  • Chemical methods use solutions to soften the dead tissues on your wound:
    • Hydrogen peroxide kills germs on the wound. You may see foam or bubbles form on the wound surface. This method may irritate your skin near the wound edges and make your skin look red.
    • Hypochlorite solution helps remove the dead tissue slowly.
    • Iodine may help dry the dead tissues. Iodine may irritate and turn your skin yellow.
  • Mechanical methods:
    • The wet to dry bandage method uses moist gauze placed in the wound and allowed to dry. The dead tissue comes out with the gauze when it is removed.
    • The pulsed lavage method uses a medical device that cleans the wound with pulsating saline. The tissue waste is then removed with a suction tube.
    • The whirlpool method uses warm, fast-moving water to soften and remove the dead tissue. This method cleans the wound and the tissue around it, and increases blood flow at the wound surface for healing.

What can I do to help my wound heal?

  • Keep your wound clean and dry. You may need to cover your wound when you bathe.
  • Limit movements, such as stretching, to prevent bleeding, tearing, and swelling in your wound.
  • Protect your wound. Avoid sunlight for at least 6 months. Apply mild, unscented lotion or cream to the skin around your wound to keep it moist.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking decreases blood flow to the wound and delays healing. Ask for information if you need help quitting.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help keep your skin moist so your wound can heal.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Foods rich in protein, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, help repair tissue. Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread and cereals, help increase cell growth and decrease the risk for wound infection. Do not have caffeine. Ask if you should take vitamins. Vitamins A and C may help tissue formation and increase scar tissue strength.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain gets worse or does not go away, even after treatment.
  • Your skin is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have severe pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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