Wound Care Overview
Most wounds heal over time with proper care, but in some cases, the healing process slows down—leading to a chronic or non-healing wound. Factors such as advanced age, poor circulation, diabetes, and other conditions can interfere with the healing process. Wounds that won’t heal can result in pain, fear, and limited mobility—and this can impair your day-to-day enjoyment of life.
Non-healing or chronic wounds can become a major health risk, especially for older people and those who have additional health conditions. That’s why a coordinated effort to evaluate and treat wounds is so important. We specialize in treating non-healing wounds caused by:
- Kidney disease
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Pressure sores
- Soft tissue radiation injury
- Steroid dependence
- Venous insufficiency (problems with leg veins sending blood back to the heart)
- Wounds of arterial, venous or lymphatic origin
Our Approach to Care
Our wound care specialists perform a series of diagnostic tests to evaluate you and your wound, focusing on the many factors that impact wound healing. Additional tests may be required to gather information on blood flow, tissue oxygenation, nutritional status, and the presence of infection. We coordinate with other medical specialists to create a wound care treatment program to address any underlying problems you may have and identify the best treatments to help your wound heal. The goal of treatment is not just to heal your wound, but to prevent a recurrence, maintain your mobility, and prevent further complications.
MedStar Health offers a full range of medical and surgical treatment options for non-healing wounds. Healing techniques include:
- Bioengineered skin is a treatment that uses skin substitutes created from biological ingredients in healthy skin.
- Biomechanical corrective surgery is a procedure to offload pressure areas and realign the foot.
- Debridement is the medical removal of damaged or infected tissue to improve the healing ability of remaining tissue.
- Diabetic shoe service evaluates you for specialized, prescription footwear designed to reduce the risk of wounds or injuries as a result of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).
- Gait evaluation analyzes how you stand or walk to detect areas of pressure and potential ulceration.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) delivers oxygen to the wound by breathing 100 percent oxygen in a special chamber, increasing blood flow to affected areas to heal your wounds faster.
- Microsurgical free flap tissue transfer uses microsurgery to move tissue from one location of the body to another site.
- Negative pressure wound therapy uses a vacuum-assisted closure dressing to remove fluid through suction, reduce the risk of infection and improve blood flow.
- Prosthetic devices improve mobility with an artificial limb in cases when an arm or other extremity is amputated or lost.
- Skin grafting involves placing skin substitutes over a burn or non-healing wound to permanently replace missing skin or provide a temporary wound cover.
- Soft tissue reconstruction rebuilds missing tissue to provide contour and improve appearance.
- Total contact casting involves fitting a non-removable cast to protect the affected limb.
Center for Wound Healing
Wound healing is complex and often involves many disciplines. Our team includes specialists in internal medicine, infectious disease, vascular surgery, orthopedic surgery, podiatric surgery, prosthetics, and rheumatology. We offer the most advanced treatment for non-healing and hard-to-heal wounds, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which uses the power of oxygen to heal your wounds as you rest in a specialized treatment chamber.
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Frequently Asked Questions
You may be referred to the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine by your primary care physician, vascular surgeon, oncologist, or another specialist. Your primary physician will continue to manage your main health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, and a wound specialist will manage your wound care.
If you’re exploring options for insurance coverage, you may need to request a referral from your primary care doctor, depending on your health insurance plan. Check with your carrier to see if medical coverage is an option for you and, if so, whether a referral is required.
Wounds need oxygen to heal properly, which is why circulation is so important. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients and removes bacteria and toxins from the wounded area. Conditions that affect circulation (diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, high blood pressure) or reduce the body’s oxygen levels (anemia or chronic lung conditions) can impair healing. Poor nutrition, stress, and smoking can also slow down the body’s healing process.
You should see a noticeable improvement of a wound and progression in healing over time. If you have a wound that has not started to heal within three to four weeks, you should see your primary care doctor or a wound specialist. It’s important to seek care right away if the wound is deep or you notice possible signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or foul-smelling drainage. For those who have diabetes, it’s important to have your doctor check your feet regularly and receive treatment for any wounds quickly before it becomes a larger problem.
At your initial appointment, your doctor will form a plan of care with you. You’ll most likely return to see a physician on a regular basis until your wound is healed.
The body’s natural repair process involves four stages essential to wound healing.
Phase 1: Blood clotting allows the body to make a clot to stop the wound from bleeding and form a scab over the area.
Phase 2: Inflammation happens when damaged and dead cells are cleared out of the area.
Phase 3: New tissue growth is a critical phase where the wound contracts (decreases in size) and epithelial cells cover the wound with new tissue.
Phase 4: Scar formation happens when collagen takes shape and the wound fully closes.
The length of time for healing depends on the severity of the wound and complicating factors such as age, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions. With treatment, most people will move through phases of wound healing within three months. However, some chronic wounds can take longer to heal.
Getting medical treatment for your wound is key to recovery, as well as treating any underlying health issues affecting the healing process. If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep your blood sugar under control. You should also follow a healthy diet to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to promote proper wound healing.