Skin Tears Terminology

Glossary of Useful Wound Care Terms

Acute wound

A disruption in the integrity of the skin and any underlying tissue. Acute wounds generally heal within the expected timeframe of the normal wound healing process (approximately 4 weeks).

Aseptic technique

It is a set of medical practices and procedures designed to reduce the risk of infection-causing pathogens contaminating an invasive device or a person.


This is the process used to remove dead or highly infected tissue to facilitate wound healing.


The dermis is the middle layer of the skin, located between the epidermis and the hypodermis. The dermis is the skin’s thickest layer, composed of fibrous and elastic tissue.


The epidermis is the outermost of the three main layers that comprise the skin.


This is a fluid that oozes out of cuts, areas of infection and inflammation. Exudate is made up of water, electrolytes, proteins, enzymes, and nutrients. It is sometimes called pus.

Full thickness

A full thickness wound is one where the tissue damage involves the total loss of the epidermal and dermal layers. It often extends to the subcutaneous layer and sometimes even into the muscle and bone.


Maceration is the softening and breaking down of the skin because of prolonged exposure to moisture.

Non-adherent dressing

A dressing that does not adhere to the wound bed or periwound, thereby reducing any further trauma to the injured skin upon removal.

Partial thickness

A partial thickness wound is one where the damage does not extend below the dermal layer.


The periwound is defined as the area immediately surrounding the wound.

Primary wound contact layer

This is a thin, non-adherent, mesh dressing placed on an open wound bed to protect the tissue from direct contact with any secondary dressings applied to the wound. A primary wound contact layer can help facilitate the passage of exudate and blood, as well as allow for the use of topical ointments.

Secondary dressing

A secondary dressing is primarily used to increase the efficacy of the primary dressing and to keep it in place. Secondary dressings are typically absorbent, which means they can absorb any blood or exudate that may pass through the primary dressing.


The skin is the largest organ in the body. It is made up of three main layers known as the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The skin is the body’s main line of defence against toxins, trauma, and microorganisms. The skin is intended to protect, regulate temperature, secrete sebum, and synthesise vitamin D.

Skin tears

A skin tear is a traumatic wound caused by mechanical force such as blunt force, friction, shearing, a fall, or the removal of a strong adhesive. It is defined as the partial or full separation of the skin’s layers. Although skin tears resemble cuts or scrapes, there is usually a remaining skin flap that must be preserved if possible.