Debridement is the medical removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue. Removal may be surgical, mechanical, chemical, autolytic (self-digestion), and by maggot therapy, where certain species of live maggots selectively eat only necrotic tissue.
In oral hygiene and dentistry, debridement refers to the removal of plaque and calculus that have accumulated on the teeth. Debridement in this case may be performed using ultrasonic instruments, which fracture the calculus, thereby facilitating its removal, as well as hand tools, including periodontal scaler and curettes, or through the use of chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide. In podiatry practitioners such as chiropodists, podiatrists and foot health practitioners remove conditions such as calluses and verrucas.
Debridement is an important part of the healing process for burns and other serious wounds; it is also used for treating some kinds of snake and spider bites. Sometimes the boundaries of the problem tissue may not be clearly defined. For example, when excising a tumor, there may be micrometastases along the edges of the tumor that are too small to be detected, and if not removed, could cause a relapse. In such circumstances, a surgeon may opt to debride a portion of the surrounding healthy tissue — as little as possible — to ensure that the tumor is completely removed.