Hemostatic dressings are used for severe trauma wounds, such as those caused by guns, knives, car accidents, or other life-threatening situations. It’s usually placed on an injury to prevent death from severe blood loss by facilitating clotting. Of course, it will have to be removed at some point — but when will that be?
The hemostatic dressing should be removed when the blood has clotted, and the wound is ready for professional medical treatment. If the hemostatic dressing was used to cover a minor injury, it can be removed when the bleeding has stopped, and the wound can potentially heal on its own.
However, the hemostatic dressing shouldn’t be removed by anyone other than a medical professional. That’s because these dressings are often used in emergencies for big trauma wounds (as opposed to, say, paper cuts).
Below, I will discuss everything you need to know about hemostatic dressings. I will talk about how long to keep it, what it is, how it works, what it’s used for, what happens if you remove it prematurely, and how to remove it if needed.
How Long Should You Keep Your Hemostatic Dressing?
You should keep hemostatic dressing until the wound stops bleeding or a medical professional suggests that you do so. Because the hemostatic dressing is often used to treat serious trauma injuries, they’re best removed right before proper medical treatment (e.g., surgery) takes place.
That said, most hemostatic dressings shouldn’t stay for more than 24 hours on a wound. Otherwise, you risk the wound becoming infected, healing slowly, and scar formation.
After a wound has clotted and stopped bleeding, it excretes serous fluid, a clear liquid that promotes healing. Leaving on the hemostatic dressing for longer than a day means that the serous fluid, old blood, and dark, warm conditions underneath it will promote bacterial growth and possible infection.
The fact that you needed to apply a hemostatic dressing implies that the wound was deep and serious. Leaving the hemostatic dressing on for over 24 hours, and not stitching it closed promptly can form a scar, causing it to heal slowly.
What Is Hemostatic Dressing?
The term hemostatic means something that shortens blood clotting time. Hemostatic dressing or gauze is a common staple in hospitals and military first-aid kits. Because of how they’re used, hemostatic dressings are designed differently from the typical gauze you can buy from a pharmacy.
Hemostatic dressing or gauze is an absorbent, medical-grade adhesive cloth meant to help stop bleeding from high trauma wounds. These include gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and injuries from a severe car accident.
Though medical professionals usually use these, such as nurses, doctors, or EMTs, they can also be bought online. If you want to use these on your own, you should ask for professional help.
How Does Hemostatic Dressing Work?
Hemostatic dressing can work in three ways. Firstly, it can form a sticky barrier on the wound to seal it, and stop the blood flow. Secondly, it rapidly absorbs water from the blood to promote platelet concentration and clot the blood. Lastly, it can deliver clotting agents to the wound.
Although hemostatic dressing is effective at stemming blood flow, you shouldn’t use it in place of direct pressure. It works best when applying continuous direct pressure to the wound.
I’ll describe how hemostatic dressing works in more detail below:
Hemostatic dressing that forms a sticky barrier to stem the blood flow is also called a mucoadhesive agent. Most mucoadhesive hemostatic dressings contain chitosan, a salt obtained from shellfish. When the chitosan and the red blood cells come into contact, the chitosan forms a link to help stop the bleeding.
Factor Concentrator Hemostatic Dressing
The second kind of hemostatic dressing absorbs the water in the blood and concentrates the platelets, the blood cells responsible for clotting. After a couple of minutes, enough platelets have grouped to stem the blood flow, and it will eventually stop completely.
Procoagulant Supplimentor Hemostatic Dressing
The third hemostatic dressing type delivers potent clotting agents to the wound. Most procoagulant supplementary hemostatic dressings use a clay-type substance, such as kaolin.
Combined with the blood’s platelets, the kaolin accelerates clotting, and the blood flow normally stops within a couple of minutes.
This video gives some insight into how hemostatic dressing works, and also discusses what it’s used for:
What Is Hemostatic Dressing Used For?
As mentioned earlier, hemostatic dressing is not your run-of-the-mill gauze. Though anyone can buy it online, it works differently from the standard cloth gauze you may be used to.
The hemostatic dressing is used for large-scale trauma wounds to help clot the blood, close wounds, and control blood loss. It’s applied to the wound with pressure, and the hemostatic dressing helps seal up the wound during an emergency before major medical procedures like surgeries.
What Happens if You Remove Hemostatic Dressing Prematurely?
You’ve applied a hemostatic dressing, and the wound has stopped bleeding. As mentioned earlier, the dressing shouldn’t stay for more than 24 hours. But what happens if you remove the dressing prematurely?
If you remove the hemostatic dressing prematurely, you risk the wound starting to bleed uncontrollably again. This can cause the patient to go into shock. You can easily rectify this if you’re in a medical facility, but it will be more challenging if you’re away from one.
How To Remove Hemostatic Dressing
The hemostatic dressing should be pretty easy to remove. As repeatedly noted in this article, however, it should only be removed once the wound has stopped bleeding and the injured person has received professional medical attention.
For the most part, you should be able to peel the hemostatic dressing off by hand. However, if it’s sticking to the person, you can also use water or saline to remove the dressing.
The hemostatic dressing is an essential part of any medical professional’s toolkit. These dressings can help stop bleeding and facilitate blood clots from life-threatening wounds when applied with an adequate amount of pressure.
However, even if the average person can theoretically apply a hemostatic dressing, it isn’t recommended. In most cases, it’s best to wait for a medical professional to okay the removal.
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- Wilderness & Environmental Medicine: Bleeding Control Using Hemostatic Dressings: Lessons Learned
- ScienceDirect: Hemostatic Dressing
- NIH: Comparison of hemostatic dressings for superficial wounds using a new spectrophotometric coagulation assay
- JEMS: Use of Hemostatic Dressings in Civilian EMS
- Healthline: Is It Serosanguinous or Another Type of Wound Drainage?
- Real First Aid: A brief guide to Haemostatic Agents