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Do you need to soak calcium alginate rope for packing?


Specializes in LTC, Surgical Dermatology. Has 3 years experience.

I work in a LTC facility and I have a resident with a stage III sacral ulcer. The order is to irrigate with wound cleanser, pack with calcium alginate rope, and cover with C/D/D once daily and PRN. Since this is still my first year as an RN, I'm still learning, and my question is this: Does the calcium alginate rope need to be soaked in NSS before packing?

I have NOT been soaking it before packing. I was just surfing the internet and saw a question someone asked about soaking a different type of calcium alginate (the answer was no), and I thought, "OMG! Should I have been soaking it before packing?" I can't seem to find this answer anywhere!

I work 3 to 11 shift, and when it comes to wound care, I'm pretty much on my own. I'm the charge nurse...the DON usually leaves shortly after my shift starts, and I don't do the wound care till around 7 pm. There is an LPN who works on the floor below me, but she is also a new grad and has even less experience than I do. Does anyone have experience with calcium alginate rope? Do you soak it or just pack it dry? This wound does not have much exudate. Of course, I can just ask at change of shift next time I work, but I want to know now if possible. Have I been doing it wrong???? (And of course, there are no directions on the box that the rope comes in!)

Any input would be MUCH appreciated!

annaedRN, RN

Specializes in LTC/hospital, home health (VNA). Has 10 years experience.

No - one of the main purposes of calcium alginate is to help absorb drainage so that the wound can heal. You are right to not soak it. If you go to changethe dressing and the calcium alginate is still dry at that time, you should do one of two things. Leave it in longer- change the frequency to every other day or every 3 days. Or get the wound care changed to something else. If it is a dry wound then calcium alginate is not the correct product anyway.

The whole point of a CA alginate dressing is absorption greater than gauze packing, so NO, don't moisten the alginate.

Margo533, CWOCN