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Most people have had a wound at some time such as a cut, a graze, a surgical incision, burn or scald, and these usually heal in a few days by keeping them clean and wearing a simple bandage. Not all wounds, however, heal easily; some take months to heal, while others become infected and can threaten a patient’s life or limb.
Wounds can be classified as either acute or chronic. Chronic wounds or sores that won’t heal are painful and trying for patients and time- consuming for primary care physicians. A chronic wound is defined as a wound that has not shown significant healing in four weeks, or has not completely healed in eight weeks. It is estimated that between three to five million Americans every year have wounds that won’t heal. For many, this affects their mobility, independence, ability to work, and eventually permanently alters their quality of life.
Difficult-to-heal wounds can result from traumatic injury, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, vein abnormalities, complications following surgery, lymphedema and many other conditions that compromise circulation.
For those that suffer from this chronic problem, there is hope for healing at the Vascular Center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville and Central Virginia. A program known as Martha Jefferson Wound Care offers a coordinated, multidisciplinary team of physicians and other healthcare professionals who understand wounds. Patients benefit from having specialists in vascular surgery, general surgery, nursing, diabetes, podiatry, physical therapy and nutrition. Chronic wound care is complex by nature and each wound has its own individual requirements to promote healing. Thus, each patient with a chronic wound requires the right balance of specialized treatment to address a patient’s particular health needs not only to encourage healing but also to prevent recurrence.
In just the last few years significant advances have been made in understanding the causes of chronic wounds and these findings have resulted in several novel treatment options. For example, when combined with careful and meticulous wound care, individual patients may benefit from wound coverage with cultured skin or fibroblast cells, negative compression therapy and even cell growth factor stimulants. These advanced wound care technologies are just a few examples of the scientific advances that have proven beneficial in caring for patients with non-healing wounds, and are provided to patients at Martha Jefferson Wound Care.
Mary Mullins, a certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse and Wound Care Coordinator, says, “We focus on all aspects of wound care. Every wound is different and needs to be individualized- it’s not just what you put on top of the wound. You often have to do a combination of modalities and have excellent treatment continuity with follow-up care by the same physicians and staff in order to carefully monitor healing. It is important to help patients feel comfortable and confident because having a chronic wound can be very discouraging.”
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Types of chronic wounds that are treated include:
- Foot wounds resulting from diabetes
- Leg ulcers due to poor circulation
- Venous leg ulcers
- Pressure ulcers
- Non-healing surgical, trauma or radiation wounds
- Cuts or other skin wounds that fail to show significant improvement in 4 weeks
- Wounds involving tendon, ligament, bone and/or joint
The wound care staff will help patients make arrangements to have wound care products delivered to their home, and will help set up other services that may be needed such as nutrition counseling and diabetes education. “You have to be aggressive, you have to intervene with chronic wounds,” says Ms. Mullins.
Lewis V. Owens, M.D., is the Medical Director of Martha Jefferson Wound Care.
Fore more info about wound care, click here.
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