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What is an Unna Boot?

By Mona D. Rigdon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An Unna boot is a compression dressing made of gauze bandaging that has a coating of zinc oxide paste, calamine lotion and glycerine covering the entire bandage. This type of dressing is used to promote healing, reduce infection and increase return of blood to the heart during treatment of a wounded area. It commonly is used for burns and venous stasis ulcers.

The boot is applied by wrapping the leg from the toes to just below the knee to cover the ulcer or wound and the lower leg. Care generally is taken to avoid folding or creasing the gauze as it is wrapped. The gauze then dries and hardens, and it is covered with an elastic bandage.

This treatment is named after the doctor that developed it, Dr. Paul Gerson Unna, a German dermatologist who discovered that it worked particularly well for certain types of wounds. The Unna boot works best for sores, ulcers and edema. These types of wounds, along with other wounds with light to moderate drainage, usually respond best to this type of leg dressing when the patient is active and mobile as opposed to confined to a bed or wheelchair.

Many patients and medical professionals tout the benefits of using the Unna boot to treat foot or leg wounds. The Unna boot can be used to heal different types of wounds. Another advantage is that it is more comfortable than other types of treatment options. Dressings don't have to be changed daily but last seven days unless drainage becomes apparent earlier. The compression factor of treating with an Unna boot helps with edema.

There are disadvantages to consider as well. It generally is worn over a long-term period of several weeks or months in order to fully heal venous stasis ulcers, burns or other wounds. The Unna boot cannot get wet. This type of dressing must be allowed to dry completely before completing the wrapping with an elastic bandage, so dressing changes can take a long time. It reduces edema, so an early dressing change might become necessary as edema and compression decreases.

There are many brands and styles of the Unna boot made specifically for different types of wounds and patient lifestyles. Some varieties come with a choice of calamine lotion and glycerine added to the medication in order to control itching and irritation. These generally come with a small price increase, but it is worth it for many who are bothered by the itching and irritation that a traditional dressing can cause.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991472 — On Jun 24, 2015

I am a patient currently using the Unna Boot treatment to address a post injury wound. Edema in my leg was causing difficulty healing. In one week, the wound was reduced by half! This is my third week in wound care. Hopefully at my next appointment, I will see even more dramatic results.

By Speechie — On Oct 09, 2011

What a brilliant dressing this Unna Boot dressing is! I have interned at a hospital and although I did not work with physical therapists (who took care of wound care at this hospital), I worked in the room next to them and often saw pictures of some of the crazy wounds they took care of.

In seeing what can happen to wounds that are not properly taken care of, as well as how time consuming it can be to take care of a wound, I think it is awesome that in some cases the Unna Boot bandage can be changed every seven days!

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