Wound Slough: Definition, Healing & Treatment

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Slough, a white or yellow covering on the base of the wound can prevent a wound from healing properly. Read this lesson to learn the common characteristics of slough and how to treat it to promote wound healing.

What Is Slough?

The presence of a wound may appear differently depending on how it occurred and how long the wound has been there. To accurately describe wounds to members of the healthcare team, classifying wounds has become very important.

Jen, a nurse who specializes in wounds, is making rounds at the hospital to teach her nursing colleagues about slough. On open wounds, slough may appear on the wound bed and is characterized by a few distinguishing factors. While preparing to teach about the topic, Jen notes description of slough in terms of:

  • Color: Slough may appear yellow, white, or gray in color.
  • Location: Covers all or part of the wound bed. It also may be patchy across the wound bed.
  • Texture: Often found to be string-like. The layer or patch of slough can be thick or thin and may appear sticky.

Jen's main objective is to teach colleagues to recognize slough, so that it can be reported to the medical provider and removed. Slough is known to prevent and slow wound healing, meaning that wounds heal faster after the slough layer is removed.

Jen is worried that her colleagues might feel they're to blame for the development of slough on their patients' wounds and prepares to explain several other important facts about slough.

  • Slough is not a scab; in fact, it negatively impacts wound healing. It should be removed to stimulate wound bed granulation, which is characterized by the presence of blood flow through tiny capillaries.
  • Slough is often the result of protein, fiber strands, and dead skin cells that naturally collect in the wound.

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  • 0:03 What Is Slough?
  • 1:41 Slough Treatment
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Slough Treatment

Jen tells her nursing colleagues that there are a few methods for removing slough. These methods are types of debridement, a medical term used to describe the removal of unnecessary tissue. She describes each method in detail.

1. Enzymatic Debridement

Jen explains that enzymatic debridement may be attempted to assist in the removal of slough. Like enzymes that our bodies produce to breakdown food for easier digestion, enzymatic debridement involves the use of a chemical or application of a topical treatment to the wound bed where slough is present, and works to breakdown the slough. Most times this type of debridement involves the use of chemicals that may be painful or create a sense of burning when applied.

2. Autolytic Debridement

While autolytic debridement may take more time to break down slough, it uses the person's natural enzymes to eliminate slough. To initiate autolytic debridement, Jen demonstrates the use of dressings or films to keep the wound's natural enzymes and fluids in place to promote this method.

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