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Venous Skin Ulcer: Debridement

Topic Overview

A venous skin ulcer is a shallow wound that typically happens on the lower leg. It is caused by slowed blood circulation called venous insufficiency.

To help your skin ulcer heal, your doctor may also remove dead tissue from the wound. This is called debridement.

With debridement, your doctor removes any dead or poorly healing tissue from the surface of a skin ulcer.

Debridement methods include:

  • Autolytic debridement, allowing the damaged or dead tissue to degenerate on its own by keeping the wound covered and moist, with or without special dressings. This includes:
    • The traditional gauze and zinc oxide compression bandage (called an Unna boot), wrapped around the lower leg, which hardens as it dries and can be left on for up to 10 days.
    • Dressings under a compression bandage, including gels, foams, hydrocolloids, or films.
  • Chemical debridement, breaking down dead tissue with an enzyme debriding agent.
  • Mechanical debridement, using ultrasound and a saline mist.
  • Surgical debridement, using a scalpel or scissors to remove dead tissue.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Margaret Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine
Last Revised August 31, 2011

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