A gauze pad is a piece of fabric used to guard and cushion a wound, to absorb blood or other fluids, to apply ointments, or to rub cleansing fluids, such as rubbing alcohol or iodine, onto a wound or site of incision. Gauze is a light, thin, loosely woven fabric commonly made of cotton or a synthetic fiber, though it can be made from other materials, such as silk, as well. Most of these dressings are non-adherent and may be dry, moist, or impregnated with medication. Sterile pads are used for many medical purposes, especially on open wounds, but non-sterile pads may be used for cushioning, cleaning, and absorbing areas less at risk of infection.
Pads made of gauze generally have a loose open weave, where adjacent warps are twisted together across the weft, allowing fluids from the wound to be absorbed into the fibers, wicked away, or passed through into other absorbent materials in the wound’s dressing. Non-woven pads’ fibers are pressed together to resemble a weave. They are arguably less absorbent, but have the benefit of leaving fewer fibers behind in a wound when removed. The size of the interstices can vary, depending on the dressing’s purpose. In addition to pads, gauze dressings include sponges, ropes, rolls, ribbons, and strips, each with different benefits and functions.
A dry gauze pad is often used to cover, cushion, and absorb leakage from an open wound with excessive exudate. Exudate is a fluid, such as blood or pus, from the circulatory system that comes to the site of an infection, lesion, or inflammation. A dry dressing wicks away this moisture. This is important because, though a wound may need to be covered in order to protect against outside infection, excessive moisture can cause maceration, wherein the surrounding skin is damaged by consistent moisture and becomes more susceptible to infection. Also, dry gauze fosters the formation of a scab, a hard fibrin covering over the wound that shields the injury site from foreign infection and allows internal healing to occur.
A wet pad is designed to retain moisture at the site of the wound. Moist wound healing was brought forth as an acceptable treatment in 1962 by George D. Winter, who found that such conditions were more conducive to healing and regrowth than dry healing via scabbing. These pads let exudate, which contains many immune cells, to gather to protect against foreign bodies. The moisture, hormones, and enzymes brought by exudate also promotes epithelial cell division, or the growth of an outer layer of tissue, such as skin. This eases discomfort during healing and can decrease scarring.
Wet to dry dressings may also be used to conduct mechanical debridement, which means that, when removed, the gauze pad pulls off the dead or infected tissue. This method is inexpensive and effective, but also potentially painful and may leave fibers behind, extending the wound's healing time. These dressings often come in three layers with very loose weaves. The first layer from the skin is saturated with saline, the second layer is impregnated with petroleum jelly, and the third is a dry gauze. When removed, saline is often reapplied to decrease pain.
An impregnated gauze pad is infused with a substance to aid in healing, such as an antiseptic, hydrogels, or a hypertonic saline solution. Antimicrobial impregnated pads, such as the silver infused pads often used on burn victims, are used to keep wounds clean and fight infection. Hypertonic saline impregnated dressings are infused with sodium chloride, which wicks moisture away from wounds with excessive exudate. These pads are not to be continuously used, as wounds need a certain amount of moisture and the immune properties of exudate to heal.