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How and When to Use Hydrogel, Collagen, Calcium Alginate, and CMC Dressings

If you’ve been in the wound care industry for quite some time, you know very well how important hydrogel, collagen, calcium alginate, and CMC (carboxymethylcellulose dressings are.

Each of them come with their own pros and cons which is why it’s crucial to understand how and when to use each of them.

That being said, below is a simple guideline you can use so you can maximize the efficiency of each of the items mentioned.


Hydrogel comes in several forms.

It can be a tube, a spray, or gauze dressing and is typically used for partial and full-thickness wounds with minimum exudate. It is recommended for daily use.

As good as hydrogel is, it is not recommended to be used on wounds with heavy exudate.

Hydrogel is usually applied on the surface of the wound bed, with the gel coating the wound bed evenly. A saturated gauze needs to line the wound bed and should be covered by a secondary dressing.

The use of skin protectants is also recommended to minimize contact with tissue or the tissue surrounding the wound.


Usually applied on full-thickness wounds with minimal to light exudate, collagen is not recommended for anyone with collagen sensitivities as well as those who are sensitive to bovine products.

Collagen is typically applied to the wound bed and conforms to the wound surface. For better and faster effects, make sure to moisten with a wound cleanser or saline especially for dry or minimal draining wounds.

Keep the wound covered with secondary dressing as well when possible. Use daily or every other day.

Calcium Alginates and CMC

Calcium alginate and CMC dressings come in a variety of sizes.

You have the 2” x 2”, 4” x 4”, 5” x 5”, 10” x 10”, 12” rope for calcium alginate; 2” x 2”, 4.5” x 4.5”, 12” rope for calcium alginate Ag (with silver), and 2” x 2”, 4” x 4”, 5” x 5” for CMC.

These dressings are typically used for full-thickness wounds with moderate to heavy exudates with the rope often used for tunneling and undermining wounds.

Calcium alginate with silver, on the other hand, is recommended for use on wounds that already has an infection, particularly in the wound bed.

All three are used on the surface of the wound bed though covering with a secondary dressing may also be necessary.

Final Thoughts

There are a plethora of ways to speed up the wound healing process and keep infection away. The key is to be able to identify which of the above items will suit the patient’s needs which will depend on the wound’s nature and severity.

The information provided should serve as a useful guideline so you can maximize the full benefits of each of these items concerning the wound healing process.

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