The healing process in acute wounds has been extensively studied and the knowledge derived from these studies has often been extrapolated to the care of chronic wounds, on the assumption that nonhealing chronic wounds were simply aberrations of the normal tissue repair process. However, this approach is less than satisfactory, as the chronic wound healing process differs in many important respects from that seen in acute wounds. In chronic wounds, the orderly sequence of events seen in acute wounds becomes disrupted or "stuck" at one or more of the different stages of wound healing. For the normal repair process to resume, the barrier to healing must be identified and removed through application of the correct techniques. It is important, therefore, to understand the molecular events that are involved in the wound healing process in order to select the most appropriate intervention. Wound bed preparation is the management of a wound in order to accelerate endogenous healing or to facilitate the effectiveness of other therapeutic measures. Experts in wound management consider that wound bed preparation is an important concept with significant potential as an educational tool in wound management.This article was developed after a meeting of wound healing experts in June 2002 and is intended to provide an overview of the current status, role, and key elements of wound bed preparation. Readers will be able to examine the following issues; . the current status of wound bed preparation; an analysis of the acute and chronic wound environments; . how wound healing can take place in these environments; the role of wound bed preparation in the clinic; . the clinical and cellular components of the wound bed preparation concept; a detailed analysis of the components of wound bed preparation.