While they don’t receive as much attention as well-known medical conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis, chronic wounds are a big problem that demands awareness, attention, and effective treatment. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic wounds, and the numbers continue to rise.
Certain factors, such as diabetes, age, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer treatment, and traumatic injuries, contribute to the prevalence of non-healing wounds. Among the vulnerable groups, seniors face an exceptionally high risk due to age-related changes and underlying health conditions.
Whether you’re wondering about self-care options or considering seeking professional help, this blog will cover everything you need to know about advanced wound care.
- Classifications and types of wounds.
- What advanced wound care entails, and how it differs from wound care at home.
- The importance of advanced wound treatment if you have a chronic or complex wound.
- Different types of advanced wound treatment.
- When it is okay to treat a wound at home.
- Indications for consulting a wound care specialist.
- The best clinic for advanced wound care treatment in Middle Tennessee.
Classifications of Wounds
Wounds can be classified based on healing time, openness, cleanliness, and origin. These classifications provide a framework for understanding the nature and characteristics of different wounds.
Acute or Chronic Wounds
Acute wounds typically heal within the expected timeframe without complications. In contrast, chronic wounds require extended healing and may present with complications.
Open or Closed Wounds
Open wounds expose underlying tissues and organs to the external environment, such as penetrating wounds. Closed wounds, on the other hand, occur without exposing the underlying tissues and organs, commonly seen in non-penetrating injuries.
Clean or Contaminated Wounds
Clean wounds lack foreign materials or debris, whereas contaminated or infected wounds may contain dirt, fragments of the causative agent, bacteria, or other foreign substances.
Internal or External Wounds
Internal wounds result from impaired immune and nervous system functions or reduced blood, oxygen, or nutrient supply to a specific area. Chronic medical conditions like diabetes, atherosclerosis, or deep vein thrombosis can lead to internal wounds. External wounds, on the other hand, are typically caused by penetrating objects or non-penetrating trauma.
Types of Wounds
While classifications provide a framework for categorizing wounds based on specific characteristics, types of wounds focus on distinct conditions and scenarios that individuals may encounter.
Here are some of the most common wound types that often require advanced wound care:
Pressure injuries, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, occur when prolonged pressure on the skin leads to tissue damage. Commonly observed in individuals who are immobile or spend extended periods in a seated or lying position, these wounds often develop in areas such as the hips, heels, and tailbone.
Venous Stasis Ulcers
Venous stasis ulcers develop due to impaired venous circulation, often associated with conditions like chronic venous insufficiency. These ulcers typically occur around the ankles and lower legs and are characterized by shallow, irregularly shaped wounds with a weepy or yellowish discharge.
Arterial or ischemic ulcers develop due to poor blood circulation, specifically arterial insufficiency. These ulcers typically occur on the lower extremities, such as the feet or toes, and are characterized by deep, painful wounds with a pale or yellowish base. Individuals with underlying conditions like peripheral artery disease are more prone to developing arterial ulcers.
Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Foot ulcers are prevalent among individuals with diabetes due to factors such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and compromised blood circulation. Typically found on the soles of the feet, diabetic foot ulcers can be challenging to heal. It is estimated that one in four people with diabetes will require treatment for foot problems.
Non-Healing Post-Surgical Wounds
Some wounds encountered after surgical procedures struggle to heal properly. Factors like infection, compromised blood flow, or underlying health conditions can contribute to delayed healing of these wounds.
Failed Grafts or Flaps
Grafts or flaps are surgical procedures that repair or replace damaged or missing tissues. Sometimes, these procedures may not heal as expected, resulting in failed grafts or flaps.
Complex Soft Tissue Wounds
Complex soft tissue wounds involve significant damage to the skin, underlying tissues, and sometimes organs. These wounds often result from severe trauma, surgical complications, or infections.
Traumatic wounds result from accidents, injuries, or physical trauma. They range from minor cuts and abrasions to more severe lacerations and puncture wounds.
Infected wounds occur when bacteria or microorganisms invade and multiply within an injury. If left untreated, these infections can cause delayed healing, increased pain, and potential complications.
Minor burns refer to superficial burns that affect the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. These burns commonly result from contact with hot objects or liquids, steam, or brief exposure to flames. Although minor burns typically heal on their own with basic wound care, seeking medical attention is advisable to ensure proper healing and prevent infection or complications.
Crush injuries occur when a body part experiences extreme pressure or force, often due to accidents, falls, or heavy objects falling onto a person. These injuries can cause significant damage to soft tissues, bones, and blood vessels in the affected area.
Radiation Soft Tissue Injuries
Radiation therapy for cancer can lead to soft tissue injuries in the treated area. These injuries may include radiation dermatitis, fibrosis (scar tissue formation), or ulceration.
Bone Damage Caused by Radiation Treatments
Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer. However, it can sometimes lead to complications such as bone damage. Radiation-induced bone injuries may result in non-healing wounds, fractures, or osteonecrosis (bone death).
Bone infections, also known as osteomyelitis, occur when bacteria or other pathogens invade the bone tissue. These infections can be challenging to treat and may require a combination of surgical intervention and long-term antibiotic therapy to eradicate the infection and promote bone healing.
Necrotizing infections, also known as flesh-eating bacterial infections, are severe soft tissue infections that rapidly destroy skin, fat, and muscle. These infections require immediate medical attention, aggressive surgical debridement, and broad-spectrum antibiotics to halt their progression and prevent life-threatening complications.
Gas gangrene is a severe and potentially life-threatening infection caused by certain types of bacteria, particularly Clostridium species. It leads to the death of affected tissues and the release of gas within the tissue compartments. Prompt medical intervention is crucial to halt the infection’s progression, remove dead tissue, and administer appropriate antibiotics.
What is Advanced Wound Care?
There are two main categories in the wound care process: general wound care and advanced wound care. General or “traditional” wound care refers to treating minor wounds using readily available products in local convenience stores or pharmacies. Advanced wound care entails the treatment of chronic or complex wounds by a wound specialist who will use specialized wound care products that are not readily accessible over the counter.
To receive advanced wound care, you need to visit a hospital or see a wound care specialist at a dedicated advanced wound care clinic. When a wound, no matter the category or type, won’t heal itself, seeking advanced wound care therapy lowers the risk of infection, helps you regain mobility, and improves overall quality of life.
Why Advanced Wound Treatment is Important
If you have a chronic or complex wound or a wound that does not heal quickly, advanced wound treatment is vital in preventing complications. Unlike minor wounds that can heal with basic care, chronic wounds often require specialized interventions to facilitate the healing process effectively. Without this care, you put yourself at risk for infection.
Advanced wound treatment addresses the underlying causes that hinder the healing of challenging wounds. Advanced wound care can expedite the healing process and enhance its effectiveness by targeting factors such as infection, poor circulation, or impaired tissue oxygenation.
Seeking advanced wound treatment from specialized wound care specialists at an advanced wound care clinic is crucial. By working closely with a wound expert at an advanced wound care clinic, individuals with chronic or complex wounds can enhance their quality of life, reduce the risk of complications, and ultimately achieve optimal healing outcomes.
Types of Advanced Wound Treatment
Various advanced wound treatments are available to help promote healing and manage complications. These treatments are tailored to the specific needs of each individual based on factors like the type and severity of the wound, as well as their overall health condition.
Here are some common types of advanced wound care treatments:
Debridement involves the removal of dead or non-viable tissue from the wound bed. This process can be performed through various methods, such as sharp debridement (using surgical instruments), enzymatic debridement (applying enzymes to break down dead tissue), or mechanical debridement (using dressings or irrigation to remove debris). Debridement helps create a clean wound bed and stimulates healthy tissue growth.
Edema Control/Compression Therapy
Edema, or swelling, can impede wound healing by restricting blood flow and promoting the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Edema control involves strategies like elevation, compression bandages or garments, and specialized wraps to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and enhance the healing process.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment that involves breathing 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This therapy increases the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream, promoting tissue oxygenation and enhancing the wound healing process. HBOT is particularly beneficial for wounds that are slow to heal, those associated with radiation damage, and certain types of infections.
Infection control is a crucial aspect of wound care, especially for wounds prone to infection. This may involve various approaches, including antimicrobial dressings, topical or systemic antibiotics, wound cleansing, and appropriate management of underlying conditions contributing to infection risk. Effective infection control helps prevent complications, promotes healing, and protects the patient’s overall well-being.
Lymphedema therapy focuses on managing lymphedema, a condition characterized by the accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues. Techniques such as manual lymphatic drainage, compression therapy, exercise, and skin care can reduce swelling, improve lymphatic flow, and enhance wound healing in individuals with lymphedema-related wounds.
Negative Pressure Wound Therapy
Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) involves the application of a vacuum-assisted dressing to the wound. The negative pressure the dressing creates helps remove excess fluid, reduce swelling, promote blood flow, and facilitate wound healing. NPWT is often used for complex or chronic wounds with large amounts of exudate.
Skin grafts involve transplanting healthy skin from one area of the body (donor site) to cover a wound (recipient site). This procedure helps replace lost or damaged skin, promotes wound closure, and supports healing. Skin grafts can be autografts (using the patient’s own skin), allografts (using donated human skin), or synthetic grafts.
Wound dressings play a crucial role in advanced wound care. Various types of dressings are available, including antimicrobial dressings, foam dressings, hydrocolloid dressings, alginate dressings, and more. These dressings help create a moist wound environment, protect the wound from external contaminants, absorb excess fluid, and promote healing.
Can I Treat Wounds at Home?
Some wounds, such as minor cuts and scratches, can be treated at home using wound care items you can purchase over the counter. This may include gauze, bandages, plasters, lint, or wadding. However, you should never attempt to treat chronic or complex wounds at home.
Techniques and products used in advanced wound care are designed to maintain proper moisture balance, minimize the risk of infection, and promote the growth of new, healthy tissue growth. This tailored approach enhances the healing process and improves overall wound outcomes. You should see a wound care specialist if you have a complex wound such as the ones listed above or a wound that is not healing.
How to Treat a Wound at Home
If you have a minor wound and are treating it at home, you must follow proper steps and use the correct wound care supplies to help prevent your wound from becoming something that requires advanced wound care.
When treating a minor wound, you should first wash your hands and stop the bleeding using gentle pressure with a clean bandage, gauze, or cloth until the bleeding stops. Next, you should place the wound under clean running water and then wash around the wound (not in it) with soup to avoid infection.
Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. Studies have found these commonly used wound care products can do more harm than good, irritate the skin, and possibly prevent your wound from healing. If any dirt or debris remains, you can remove it with sanitized tweezers.
Last, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a clean bandage or gauze with paper tape. Change the dressing once a day or anytime it becomes wet or dirty, and watch for signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, swelling, pain, or drainage.
If you think you have an infection or your wound is not healing, contact a wound care specialist as soon as possible.
When to See a Wound Care Specialist
Knowing when to seek the expertise of a wound care specialist is essential for effective management of wounds. While general wound care may suffice for minor injuries, certain situations warrant the attention of a specialized professional.
Here are some indicators that it may be time to consult a wound care specialist:
- Slow or non-healing wounds: If a wound shows little to no progress in healing within a reasonable timeframe, despite appropriate general wound care, it is crucial to seek specialized evaluation and treatment.
- Chronic wounds: Wounds that persist for an extended period, typically beyond six weeks, are considered chronic wounds. These wounds often require advanced wound care interventions to promote healing.
- Complicated wounds: Complex wounds, such as those with underlying infections, extensive tissue damage, or exposed bones or tendons, necessitate the expertise of a wound care specialist to prevent further complications.
- Wounds with signs of infection: Infections can impede healing and pose serious health risks. If you observe any of the following symptoms of infection, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Signs of infection might include increased redness, warmth, or swelling around the wound, worsening or foul-smelling discharge or pus, persistent or increasing pain at the wound site, or the development of fever or chills.
- Underlying health conditions: Individuals with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or immune system disorders may experience impaired wound healing. In such cases, consulting a wound care specialist is advisable to manage the unique challenges associated with these conditions.
- Surgical wounds requiring specialized care: Certain surgical wounds, especially those at risk of complications, may benefit from specialized wound care to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of infection.
By recognizing these indicators, you can make an informed decision about when to seek the expertise of a wound care specialist. Timely intervention by a qualified professional can significantly improve outcomes and facilitate healing.
Heal Faster with Advanced Wound Treatment at The Advanced Wound Care Clinic at Surgical Clinic in Middle Tennessee
If you have a wound that won’t heal or concerns you, contact one of our offices in Nashville at Centennial Medical Center or Summit Medical Center. Our advanced wound care clinic, led by Dr. Gregory Neal, MD, has everything you need to address the challenges associated with chronic or complex wounds.
By providing targeted interventions, creating an ideal healing environment, and utilizing specialized expertise, the advanced wound care clinic at The Surgical Clinic can significantly improve healing outcomes and contribute to the overall well-being of individuals with chronic wounds.