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Topic Six: Film Dressings

Composition & Properties

Film dressings are transparent, flexible and adhesive. They are often used for superficial wounds to protect the wound from friction and other trauma. They are capable of providing a barrier against infection. These dressings are often used to fixate some devices, e.g. cannulas.

Modern film dressings usually consist of a sterile, thin, elastic polyurethane film coated with a layer of acrylic adhesive on the wound contact side (Morris, 2006).

Most films allow moisture vapour transfer (MVT), which means that they are permeable to moisture vapour and oxygen but impermeable to bacteria. The wound healing environment, therefore, remains clean, warm and moist and helps to prevent the development of a scab on the wound surface (Benbow, 2005).

The main differences between films are their MVTR (Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate) and the way in which they are applied (Jones & Milton, 2000).

Indications for use

Films can be used as a primary or secondary dressing.

Films as a primary dressing

As a primary dressing, films are generally suitable for wounds with a low level of exudate that are shallow, non-infected wounds. Films are often used to cover wounds that are healing by primary intention. A film can also be used to reduce the pain caused by the exposure of nerve endings, for example, in minor burns. The use of film dressings on partial thickness wounds with minimal exudate and as a secondary dressing is for enhanced moisture retention (Vuolo, 2009).

When used as a primary dressing, films allow inspection of a wound without removing the dressing. Films can also be used prophylactically to protect areas of the skin at risk of damage from friction forces (Collier, 1995; Wound Educators, 2010).

Some film dressings are available with an absorbent pad that can manage a small amount of exudate (low) and are commonly used for surgical wounds, providing more of a moist wound environment than a simple island dressing.

Films as a secondary dressing

Films are often used as a fixation device. However, they should not be used to secure other dressings with a higher MVTR as this will reduce the overall MVTR, reducing the ability of the dressing to handle exudate. Film dressings should not be used for deeper wounds or those that are infected or have moderate to heavy exudate levels. (Wound Care Today, 2016)