Before coming to a wound care center, many patients may have had an open wound or ulcer for several months. These wounds may sometimes be debilitating, have a foul odor and have a detrimental effect on everyday life, leading to serious problems for patients.
For patients experiencing stubborn wounds, lasting more than four weeks, a visit to a wound care specialist may be the best course of action. Oftentimes, a patient will come to a wound care specialist after receiving treatment from a primary care provider, but the wound has failed to heal.
When faced with a wound that won't heal, there are several courses of action that a doctor may take. First, a patient will have a full initial consultation with a wound care specialist. During the consultation, the physician will look at the patient's medical history and other issues that may affect the patient's ability to heal. From there, a wound care plan will be created. At a wound care center, treatment is custom designed for each patient based on his or her unique physical needs.
A simple approach may be the use of debridement techniques. For this, a physician will use a scalpel or other tools to remove infected or necrotic tissue from a wound, allowing new, healthy tissue to reform. While this simple technique dates back well into history, it can still be an effective model for treatment. However, if a wound persists, more advanced therapies may be pursued.
One of the most misunderstood methods of healing is the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. When undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a patient enters a large tube surrounded by clear glass. Once inside the chamber, pressure is increased to what someone would feel approximately 33 feet below water. From there, 100 percent oxygen is pumped into the tank, speeding the process of wound healing.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is approved by Medicare and other insurance companies for a number of diagnoses including diabetic foot ulcers, chronic osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone or bone marrow), delayed radiation injuries, compromised skin grafts or skin grafts that are not adhering properly.
Another innovative treatment for advanced wound care is bioengineered skin substitutes. These FDA-approved treatments combine living cells, the proteins from living cells and cellulose and apply them to the skin to aid in the skin's own natural reproduction. This is among the most advanced treatment options for wound care patients and is most commonly used to treat venous stasis or a vascular issue that's caused by a lack of blood flow, leading to open ulcers on the skin.
In the event of a stubborn open wound or ulcer, a patient should discuss the option of a wound care center with their primary care physician. Wound care specialists use years of data to design a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to healing wounds and can then provide monitoring and evaluation throughout the process.
Long-lasting wounds can have a serious effect on the health of a patient. Therefore it is important for patients to be persistent in seeking and receiving care for problem wounds.
Ben Carter is the program director at the Wound Care Center at Saint Joseph Hospital, part of Kentucky One HealthBen Carter is the program director at the Wound Care Center at Saint Joseph Hospital, part of Kentucky One Health.