WOUND & SKIN CARE: Sizing up wounds accurately

April 2005 
Volume 35  Number 4
Pages 70 - 71
  PDF Version Available!


  • Measuring area

  • Measuring volume

  • Sizing up the situation



  • Figure. Measuring wo...

  • Figure. A Kundin gau...

    MEASURING WOUND SIZE accurately lets you objectively evaluate wound healing, share information with the rest of the health care team, and protect yourself legally. You can measure wounds in various ways: according to two dimensions (length and width) or three dimensions (length, width, and depth) and via an assortment of measurement methods, from a simple ruler measurement to more sophisticated techniques such as tracings, photography, and computerized planimetry.

    What's the best approach? The ideal technique would provide accurate wound dimensions regardless of which clinician measured the wound. It would work on all wounds in all settings and be portable. And it wouldn't contaminate the wound or make the patient uncomfortable.

    Unfortunately, nothing meets all these criteria, but you can choose from the available tools and techniques to find a method that yields the best possible results. Here are some suggestions.

    Measuring area

    You can take most linear measurements of wound width and length with a tape measure, ruler, or acetate tracing and record your findings in centimeters. These methods are simple, reliable, inexpensive, and portable. However, before you can measure a wound, you must identify the wound margins, which aren't always clear.

    The common practice in clinical settings is to measure the longest length and widest width, then multiply these dimensions for area in centimeters squared. But this method is inherently inaccurate, especially with larger and oddly shaped wounds, as it falsely assumes that every wound is a regular shape. A recent study found that, with this method, if a rectangular shape is assumed, the true area of a ...

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