Medical packing strips are an important part of wound care. This article explores the uses and applications of packing strips for wound care, the types of wound packing materials available and cautions to consider when engaging in this type of procedure.
What Are Medical Packing Strips?
Packing strips for wound care are long, slender, continuous pieces of a fine-mesh, gauzy material intended to fill wounds that extend into the dermal layer, also known as cavity wounds.
Why Use Wound Packing Strips?
Cavity wounds and wounds with a sinus, tunnel or undermining with an unknown endpoint require medical packing. There are several purposes behind packing a wound. The primary goal is to loosely fill empty space, but packing is also crucial in assisting the healing process. Properly applied medical packing strips can prevent premature wound closure and the formation of abscesses by promoting granulation tissue growth in the wound bed.
When Are Medical Strips Contraindicated?
- Do not use wound packing materials for fistula management, which should be referred to the attending physician or nurse practitioner.
- Do not use packing strips for wound care if the undermining, sinus tracts or tunnels of a wound are deeper or more extensive than the reach of a 15-centimeter (6-inch) cotton-tipped applicator or probe. If the tunnel or undermining extends beyond this depth or you are unable to determine the depth of the cavity wound, medical packing is not recommended.
Types of Wound Packing Strips
- Plain Packing Strips – Sterile packing strips without impregnation are generally made from fine-mesh, cotton gauze and are compatible with wet-to-dry wound packing. Plain packing strips are available in various pre-cut sizes.
- Lodoform Packing Strips – Iodoform is an antimicrobial compound that is effective against common infectives like pseudomonas and E. coli. Iodoform-impregnated wound packing strips can support debridement and overall healing.
- More Medical Packing Strip Options – In addition to iodoform and plain packing strips, wound packing gauze is available infused with other antiseptic compounds, like polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB), silver and alginate to help manage exudate and maintain a moist environment.
Cautions for Using Any Wound Packing Material
Best medical packing practices call for extreme caution when removing or changing a dressing. Leaving a piece of wound packing material behind can cause infection and seriously impede the healing process. Therefore, use only one continuous packing strip to fill the space whenever possible. If multiple wound packing strips are necessary to fill a cavity of more than 1 centimeter deep, carefully count and document the strips as they are inserted, then verify the number of strips as they are removed.