How to Measure a Wound

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In medicine, it is often said you cannot properly manage what you have not measured. Taking the measure of a wound allows health care providers to assess the level of tissue damage and to track the healing process. This enables them to determine the appropriate measures to take and to record how well a particular type of wound care is working.

Things You'll Need

  • Ruler calibrated in centimeters
  • Pen or pencil
  • Patient chart or paper
  • Calculator
  • Clean cotton swab
  • Antiseptic solution

Gather your materials. The basic measure of the wound will be taken with a ruler and recorded in centimeters. For the sake of hygiene and sanitation, you may want to use a disposable paper ruler as this will decrease the odds of infection via the transference of surface bacteria.

Position the patient so the wound is clearly visible. Visually examine the wound. Be sure the wound is clean and that the edges are distinct and visible, enabling you to obtain an accurate measure.

Measure the length of the wound by placing the ruler directly above the longest portion of the injured area. Record the distance from open edge to open edge with a head to toe orientation. Record the result on the chart as “wound length.”

Measure the width of the wound by holding the ruler directly above the widest area of injured tissue, measuring from open edge to open edge with a side to side orientation. Record the result on the chart as “wound width.”

Multiply the two measurements together to get the total area in centimeters squared. Then describe the basic shape of the wound, rectangular, round, square, irregular, etc.

Moisten the tip of a cotton swab with an antiseptic and gently place it into the deepest portion of the wound. Grab the swab at skin level and remove. Without releasing the swab, measure the distance from the tip of the swab to the holding point to determine the wound’s depth. If this is not possible, estimate the distance from the surface of the skin to the end of the interior damage in centimeters.

Repeat the entire measurement procedure at least once a week, being sure to note the progression of the healing process or lack thereof.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be aware of the wound measurement policy in your office. These are general guidelines; however, there are variations. For example, some medical practices prefer to use the longest measure of the wound as the length, regardless of orientation.

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