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Gelfoam Dressing Change

Gelfoam is a material used in fresh open wounds to stop bleeding. The Gelfoam is applied directly to the base of the wound and it helps the blood to form a clot. Another bandage is applied on top of the Gelfoam to protect it and keep it in place. 

The Gelfoam material in contact with the wound base will dissolve or fall off with the scab. Any remaining Gelfoam may be removed during a follow-up visit.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your wound at home:

  • Keep the dressing dry until the next dressing change or visit with your doctor. Bathe with your dressing out of the water, protected with a large, rubber-banded plastic bag. If the dressing becomes wet, it will need to be changed.

  • If you were advised to change the dressing at home:

    • Wash your hands.

    • Remove the outer bandage covering the Gelfoam.

    • The outer bandage might stick to the Gelfoam due to blood in the bandage. If that happens, run warm water over the dressing until the dried blood softens and you can peel the dressing away from the Gelfoam. Be careful not to pull the Gelfoam off the wound. 

    • If the warm water method alone does not work to loosen the bandage, you may pour hydrogen peroxide over the dressing. This will be more effective in softening the dried blood. 

    • If this doesn’t work and you are having difficulty, return to this facility and let us replace the dressing for you.

    • After the bandage is removed, rinse with soap and water. Inspect the area around the wound for redness, swelling, or pus.  

    • Apply an antibiotic ointment over the Gelfoam to keep it from sticking to the new bandage. Reapply another bandage or large adhesive bandage.

  • No tub baths or swimming until the bandage is removed and the wound healed (at least seven days).

  • If you were given an appointment for wound check or dressing change, be sure to keep this appointment.  

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor, or as advised by our staff. Most open wounds heal within 10–14 days. However, even with proper treatment a wound infection may sometimes occur. Therefore, you should check the wound daily for signs of infection listed below.

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention or contact your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Increasing pain in the wound

  • Redness, swelling, or pus coming from the wound

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your health care provider

  • Bleeding not controlled by direct pressure


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