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The term 4x4 gauze is used to describe a pre-measured square of gauze cloth, folded once in the middle, which surgeons and other medical professionals use during surgery or to dress wounds. Known for its open weave and airy quality, gauze is an ideal wrapping for burns and skin lacerations. The size of 4x4 gauze is 4 inches wide by 4 inches long (10.16 cm by 10.16 cm) after folding, and it can be sold in bulk or in individual sterile envelopes.
Gauze is an excellent material to dress a wound because it allows moisture to escape, but is also absorbent and soaks up excess fluid from the wound. It is also non-adherent, so it can be used as either a primary or secondary dressing. During medical procedures, 4x4 gauze is also often used by doctors to soak up blood and other fluids that come from penetrating the surface of the skin.
Usually woven from cotton and other fibers, gauze may also be made from synthetic fibers which are pressed together to create a solid piece of fabric. Gauze can be purchased in a variety of ways: on a roll, in ribbons or strips, or in precut sections like 4x4 gauze. When gauze is precut, it is often easier for a surgeon's gloved hands to grasp and maneuver in a particular way.
Gauze may be sterile or non-sterile. When it is sterile, 4x4 gauze is usually packaged as a pair of cloths inside a plastic or paper sleeve to keep it clean. Sterile gauze is more expensive than non-sterile gauze, costing three to four times as much. Non-sterile gauze is usually packaged and purchased in bulk since it does not need to be kept sterile.
The thickness of medical-grade gauze can vary, and is measured in terms of plying. In the textile industry, plying is the process of taking two or more strands of fabric and weaving them together. When six strands are used for the weave, for example, it is called 6-ply. The thickness of medical-grade 4x4 gauze is usually 8- or 12-ply, with the thicker gauze being more expensive.
Gauze can be pre-treated with any number of substances. Antibiotic ointments are often pre-applied to medical gauze, as are antiseptics. This pre-treatment is convenient, as many wounds require multiple dressings to be applied and re-applied during the healing process.
Dressings can be either moist or dry. Dry gauze dressings help healing wounds by breaking away the dried, excess seepage. Some doctors prefer a moist environment for wound healing, and might use wet gauze or pre-treated gauze instead.