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Wound measurement comparing the use of acetate tracings and VisitrakTM digital planimetry


  • Georgina Gethin RGN, DipHE wound care,

  • Seamus Cowman MSc, PhD, FFNMRCSI, RGN, RNT, PGCEA, Dip N

Georgina Gethin
123 St Stephens Green
Dublin 2
Telephone: +353 71 91 60301


Aims.  This study aimed to compare acetate tracing with the new digital planimetry system VisitrakTM (Smith + Nephew). It also aimed to compare the percentage change in wound size after four weeks using both methods.

Background.  There is a need for development and more widespread use of objective tools in wound management. Wound measurement is an integral part of wound assessment and provides possibly the most objective tool available. To achieve this, practitioners use a variety of methods including acetate tracing and digital planimetry. Studies have demonstrated good inter- and intrarater reliability using both methods.

Methods.  A retrospective, random selection of wound tracings of superficial leg ulcers was completed until 25 tracings of <10 cm2 and 25 tracings of >10 cm2 were obtained. Wound area was calculated firstly by manually counting squares completely within the wound border and those half or more within the border as 1 cm2. The area was then calculated using the VisitrakTM system.

Results.  The difference between the acetate and VisitrakTM for wounds <10 cm2 not significant (P = 0·330). For wounds >10 cm2 the difference between both methods was significant (P = 0·008). After four weeks the number of tracings available was too small for any conclusions to be made.

Conclusion.  Wound measurement should become part of routine practice. Acetate offers a good indicator of wound size and digital planimetry can enhance the precision of the measurement.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Accurate and objective wound measurement is a vital component of wound management. It is essential that nurses have adequate training and skills in wound measuring to assess wounds correctly and objectively. Findings from this study can be used when deciding which method should be used in a particular setting when outcomes and cost have been considered. Accurate on-going wound measuring contributes to improved quality of patient care, more effective communication between professionals, as a predictor to wound healing, to document progress and assess treatment efficacy.