Debridement of Wound for a Faster Recovery

Debridement is a common treatment used for lower extremity wound care. This article discusses what debridement is, the types of debridement procedures, when they are used, and the benefits of debridement.

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Definition of Debridement

Debridement is a procedure where a surgeon removes dead (necrotic) or infected skin tissue. This lower extremity wound care procedure is used to help a wound heal. It can also be used to remove foreign material from tissue.

Wounds can get trapped in the first stage of healing in the presence of dead or infected tissue. Debridement restarts the healing process, allowing the wound to heal properly. It can also help reduce scar tissue and minimize complications that arise with infections.

Types of Debridement

There are several different types of debridement procedures. Your physician will choose the best procedure according to the following factors:

It is common for your physician to use more than one of the following methods:

Feet after they have had a wound debridement.

Biological Debridement

Sterile maggots are used in biological debridement. This procedure is also known as biosurgery, maggot debridement therapy, and larval therapy.

The maggots aid wound healing by eating the dead tissue in the wound. They also release antibacterial substances and eat harmful bacteria, helping to control infection.

The maggots are secured on the wound with a dressing for 24-72 hours and replaced twice a week. Biological debridement is ideal for large wounds and those infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics such as MRSA. It may also be indicated if you cannot have surgery.

Chemical Debridement

Chemical debridement (or enzymatic debridement) uses a gel or liquid that contains enzymes to soften unwanted tissue. The enzymes can be sourced from animals, plants, or bacteria. The treatment is applied to the wound once or twice a day and covered with a dressing. The dead tissue is removed along with the dressing when it is removed.

Chemical debridement is often used when patients have bleeding problems, or they have a high risk for complications from surgery. You are not usually recommended for chemical debridement if you have large or severely infected wounds.

Autolytic Debridement

Autolytic debridement will soften only necrotic tissue by using your body’s enzymes and natural fluids. A dressing that retains moisture is applied to the wound. The moisture will cause the dead tissue to swell and separate from the wound.

Autolytic debridement is often recommended for non-infected wounds and pressure sores. It can also be used along with another form of debridement if the wound is infected.

Mechanical Debridement

The most common type of wound debridement is mechanical debridement. A moving or mechanical force is used to remove unhealthy tissue. There are different types of mechanical debridement. They include:

  • Hydrotherapy: This type of wound irrigation uses running water to wash away dead tissue. This can be done using a catheter tube, syringe, whirlpool bath, or shower.
  • Wet-to-dry dressing: This involves applying wet gauze to the wound where it is left to dry. The gauze will stick to the wound so that when it is removed, it will take away the dead tissue.
  • Monofilament debridement pads: These soft polyester pads are gently brushed across the wound to remove bad tissue and wound debris.

Mechanical debridement can be used for both non-infected and infected wounds.

Conservative Sharp and Surgical Sharp Debridement

Sharp debridement is the removal of unhealthy tissue by cutting it off. Conservative sharp debridement is a minor surgery. Your physician may use scalpels, curettes, or scissors to remove the dead tissue. Your physician will avoid cutting the surrounding healthy tissue.

Surgical debridement, on the other hand, uses surgical instruments. The procedure may involve cutting some of the healthy tissue around the wound. It’s usually performed by a surgeon and requires anesthesia.

Sharp debridement is usually needed if other forms are ineffective or if the need for debridement is urgent. Surgical sharp debridement is generally reserved for large, deep, or very painful wounds.

A doctor preparing a foot wound debridement.

What is Debridement Used For?

Not all wounds will need debridement. You may need debridement if:

The Benefits of Debridement

The use of debridement is a standard treatment in wound management. The benefits of using debridement include the removal of necrotic tissue and bacteria as well as senescent cells. Debridement also stimulates the activity of growth factors.

How Long Does a Debridement Procedure Take?

Most of the debridement procedures can be performed fairly quickly at the bedside. The only exception is surgical sharp debridement, which will take a bit longer because of the use of anesthesia and the need to use the operating room.

Book a Visit Today

For expert lower extremity wound care, contact the experts at Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center. You can find us in the Columbus, Ohio area. Book your appointment today to get the help you are looking for!

Medically reviewed by Terrence M. Philbin, DO

Our Lower Extremity Wound Care Specialists


Board Certified Podiatric Surgeon and Wound Specialist


Clinical Podiatrist, Certified Wound Specialist


Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Foot & Ankle Surgeon
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