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Discharge Instructions: Packing a Wound

Your healthcare provider wants you to care for a special dressing, or packing, in your wound. When a wound is deep, or when it tunnels under the skin, packing the wound can help it heal. The packing material soaks up any drainage from the wound, which helps the tissues heal from the inside out. Without the packing, the wound could close at the top. This would trap fluid and possibly bacteria in the deeper areas of the wound and lead to infection and impede healing. You were shown how to pack your wound before you left the hospital. The following guidelines will help you remember how to take care of your wound.

Gather your supplies

Keep your supplies all in 1 place. Put them in a basket or large bag. You will need the following:

  • Packing material

  • Sterile wetting solution

  • Sterile gloves

  • A clean bowl

  • Scissors

  • A clean towel

  • Outer dressing material (a bandage to put on the top of the wound after you have packed it)

  • Tape

  • Cotton swabs

  • A small plastic bag

Clean up

  • Clean the area where you will set out your dressing supplies.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

  • Put a clean towel over the area and set a clean bowl on it. Don’t touch the inside of the bowl.

Prepare the packing material

  • Pour enough wetting solution into the clean bowl to wet the packing material.

  • Cut off a length of packing material and drop it carefully into the bowl of wetting solution. (Remember, the amount of packing material needed to fill the wound should become less and less as the area heals. You will need to adjust the length of the packing material over time.)

  • Cut pieces of tape to desired lengths. You will use these strips to secure your outer dressing. For now, hang the pieces of tape on the edge of your work surface.

  • Gently remove your existing bandage (old tape, outer dressing, and packing). Put these items in a small plastic bag for disposal.

Pack the wound

  • Wash your hands thoroughly again. Use soap and water.

  • Put on the gloves. Gently squeeze the packing material to get rid of excess wetting solution. The packing material should be wet, but not dripping.

  • Gently put the packing material into the wound. Packing should fill the wound space completely, but not tightly. Use a cotton swab to gently guide the packing into small or tunneled areas.

  • Open your outer dressing material and place it on the towel. Keep it away from the bowl, and don’t get it wet.

  • Put the outer dressing over the packing and wound site.

  • Tape the outer dressing in place.

  • Remove your gloves.

  • Wash your hands 1 more time with soap and water.

Follow-up

Make a follow-up appointment. It is recommended that you be seen within 48 hours after the first time a packing is placed.

 

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Increased drainage from the wound

  • Redness in or around the wound

  • Wound tissue that changes from pink to white, yellow, or black in color

  • Odor coming from the wound

  • Increased size or depth of the wound

  • Fever above 100.4°F  (38°C) or shaking chills

 

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