Exudate: Definition & Types

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel is a Nurse Practitioner with experience working as a high school teacher, skin surgery center, and as a family NP.

The skin has the power to heal itself, but this healing process usually produces a fluid known as exudate. In this lesson, you'll learn about the various types of exudate and what each reveals about the health of a wound.

What Is Exudate?

Exudate. Sounds like someone you used to have a relationship with. But in reality, it is closely linked to the body and its natural healing mechanism. In fact, you have probably observed it firsthand. Where exactly? Well, think about the little white cotton square on the back of a band-aid. The drainage collected on this bit of cotton is exudate. Now, let's back up a bit and explain how this exudate got onto your bandage.

Your skin is a magnificent barrier against infection. But accidents happen, and sometimes your skin barrier is broken, either because of a cut or scrape, or some other type of injury. After an injury, the body's repair mechanisms spring into action. Soldier cells, a specific type of white blood cells, are sent to the area to fight against any infection that may attempt to enter through the opened tissue.

Some of these soldier cells die, as do some of the skin cells that were damaged in the injury. All of these dead cells contribute to forming something called exudate. Exudate is the fluid produced by a wound as it heals, and it is a normal part of the healing process. However, sometimes infection sets in, changing the appearance of the exudate, as you will see.

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  • 0:03 What Is Exudate?
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Types of Exudate

Exudate is a great indicator as to how a wound is healing. Exudate's color, thickness, and odor are all clues as to whether a patient's wound is healing well or if there is a problem. The most common forms of exudate are:

  • Serous - a clear drainage
  • Sanguineous - a bloody drainage
  • Serosanguineous - a clear, blood-tinged drainage
  • Purulent - a thick yellow, brown, green or grey drainage

Let's look at each in a little more detail.

1. Serous

This is the most common form of exudate seen being emitted from a wound. It is a sign of normal wound healing. As the skin is knitting itself back together, there are natural wastes, such as dead cells and proteins. The wastes are gotten rid of via this clear, oozing liquid known as serous exudate. Serous exudate usually has no odor.

An easy way to remember about serous exudate is with the phrase 'serous is NOT serious.' This will remind you that this type of drainage from a wound is considered normal during the healing process.

2. Sanguineous

This term stems from the Latin word for blood or sanguis. So the name, sanguineous, tells you all you need to know. This form of drainage is the result of bleeding in the wound. Ever drink sangria? Well, the name sangria stems from the same root word. This alcoholic beverage earned the name because it is made mostly of a dark red wine, and thus resembles blood.

Sanguineous exudate is not always a bad sign. It commonly appears when the injury first occurs, especially if it is a deeper wound. However, if a wound has a prolonged period of producing sanguineous exudate, this indicates that trauma is repeatedly happening to the wound. Sanguineous exudate usually has no odor.

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