Health Matters Blog

Some Wounds Won’t Heal

By Lynne Vantassel

Chronic wounds currently affect more than eight million people in the United States. Fueled by an aging population, the incidence of such wounds is on the rise as more patients are diagnosed with chronic medical conditions.
A chronic or non-healing wound is a wound that hasn’t healed within 30 days using conventional treatments. These sores are symptomatic of one or more underlying conditions that prevent the normal flow of blood and hurt the natural healing process. Diabetes and venous disease put a patient at risk for chronic wounds.

In fact, non-healing wounds are particularly prevalent in the estimated 25.8 million Americans affected by diabetes. A person risks losing sensation in their feet and legs when their blood sugar is not under control. A cut can occur and become infected before they are aware they have stepped on or came in contact with a sharp object.

Twentieth century research found dry dressings could cause secondary trauma and damage to cells needed to support healing. From the 1960s on, the care and management of acute and chronic wounds made rapid improvements as a result of this discovery. Today’s approach to moist wound healing expands the purpose of dressings considerably. The dressing still protects the wound from infection. But a moist dressing also facilitates natural debridement, maintains a moist environment, acts as a natural barrier, reduces pain and diminishes scarring.

There are nine different steps to determine clinical treatment of a non-healing wound. This systematic approach to evaluation, description and identification ensures consistent progress is made in healing the wound. It also makes it easier to perform any necessary re-evaluation and changes in a patient’s treatment plan.

Of course, patients play an important role in the healing of their own wounds. Any successful treatment of a chronic wound requires education about how to care for it. Non-healing wounds often occur because vascular function is compromised, preventing normal blood flow. Nutrition and exercise also play an important role in healing.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a relatively new medical treatment available for patients suffering from non-healing wounds. Also known as HBOT, this therapy involves enclosing the patient in a pressure chamber, where he or she is exposed to pure oxygen for a period of time. The body’s natural healing process is aided through increased oxygen flow to the wound. HBOT also kills bacteria that may be preventing a wound’s healing or keeping new tissue from forming over the sore. A physician who is specially trained in the treatment of chronic wounds would be able to determine who is a candidate for HBOT.

In early May, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital will be opening its new Center for Wound Healing. It will be the first in Vermont to offer HBOT as part of its comprehensive treatment options for helping patients with chronic and non-healing wounds. We hope you can join us at an Open House at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, May 7 to learn more and meet the medical staff.

Lynne Vantassel is the Program Director for the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Center for Wound Healing. She can be reached at lvantassel@bmhvt.org.

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