Debridement is a surgical procedure whereby dead tissue is removed from a wound in order to promote healing while making infection less likely to occur. There are several different ways debridement can be done, from using live maggots to eat away the tissue, to applying chemicals or physically cutting material away from healthy tissue. Once debridement is finished, a wound has more chance of getting better rather than worsening.
Material removed by debridement may be made from dead tissue or metabolic waste caused by the wound itself. In medical terms, this is often referred to as necrotic tissue. The tissue stems from poor blood supply or interstitial pressure that can create ulcers.
Dead tissue tends to harbor bacterial growth, which can lead to severe infection and sepsis. It can also inhibit an open wound from closing as it heals, leaving the wound open and liable to gain more bacteria. The removal of dead tissue ensures an open wound heals up neatly and complications do not occur such as protein loss. Necrotic tissue can also hide abscesses and a build up of fluids that need to be dealt with as soon as possible.
The body naturally debrides its own wounds in some cases, but when a persons immune system is poor, and with wounds which arise due to pressure, the body can't always keep up with the pace of necrotic tissue which arises continually and surgery is the main option. As necrotic tissue occurs, a wound is starved of oxygen and much needed nutrients. Removing the tissue can help air get to a wound and let the body begin to heal itself. Oxygen is important for the healing process, as without it free radicals and cells that fight infection and aid healing are not produced adequately.
As well as debridement being used to prevent infection and hasten healing, it is often necessary so that medical professionals can get a proper look a wound to make a diagnosis for treatment. Dead and dying tissue can hide what is really going on underneath and hinder healing progress. It can also restrict the use of biomaterials to treat a wound.
There are many different reasons why debridement is an important medical procedure, and although it may sound gory, dead material being removed does not usually produce much pain to the point where anesthetic often may not be required. Patients may need to have debridement procedures carried out several times for persistent wounds, but without it, the result could be fatal.