Nicked your finger on the edge of a paper or got a nasty bruise after bumping into a doorknob? Your body has the incredible ability to heal itself. Clotting cells in your blood, called platelets, mobilize at the scene of an injury, and get to work repairing small wounds in a fascinating natural process.
But what happens when you have a very large wound? Say it’s a bedsore or advanced diabetic wound that just won’t heal on its own. In that case, you need wound care.
What is Wound Care?
Wound care is a set of various treatments for pressure sores, diabetic foot ulcers, burns, and other wounds. Some of the most common wounds that require specialized wound care are pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers. Pressure sores develop in bed-confined individuals when too much weight presses against a pressure point for too long. This is typically on the buttocks, elbows, heels, and ankles. Other common wounds are diabetic ulcers—wounds that develop in patients with diabetic neuropathy. We talked about neuropathy at length in a previous blog, but the gist of it is that some people with diabetes develop a condition where they lose sensation in their extremities. When that happens, they may not notice an injury to their foot until it develops into a serious wound.
Treatment of Pressure-related Ulcers
If the ulcer is pressure-related, the main goal is to reduce or eliminate pressure right away, before the wound deteriorates. This can involve:
- Turning the bed-confined patient at regular intervals
- Introducing a special surface, like an egg-crate or gel mattress, that alternates pressure points and reduces friction
- The use of specialized beds that relieve pressure by constantly moving air through the cushioning
Treatment of Advanced Wounds
If the wound is not treated, infection and necrosis can set in. Wounds are typically rated in four stages. The lower the stage, the more superficial the wound. Treatment for stage I and II ulcers involves keeping the wound clean and moist, and making sure the surrounding area is clean and dry. Wet skin is more prone to turning into an ulcer. Wound care nurses will use saline washes, povidone iodine, or sodium hypochlorite to keep the wounds clean and sterile.
More serious wounds, in stage III and IV, will benefit from more advanced treatment. This commonly includes:
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: This treatment saturates the body with oxygen. The patient rests in a pressurized chamber of oxygen for up to two hours, absorbing 100% oxygen into their bloodstream. The extra oxygen increases healing capability at the wound site, and clears bacterial infection. This type of treatment is generally available at hospitals, such as Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick.
- Topical or oral antiobiotics: If the wound is already infected or there is concern of infection, the patient’s doctor may recommend antibiotic treatment. This can be administered orally in pill form, or topically, via anti-bacterial lotions.
- Debridement: This is a surgical procedure that removes dead tissue via scalpel or chemical agents. Removing the dead, or necrotic, tissue allows for the growth of new, healthy tissue. Since debridement involves blood loss, it’s often not an option for anemic patients or patients with other blood conditions.
Regency Nursing’s Excellent Wound Care Programs
While we’ve only touched on the basics of wound care, you can learn more about wound care by talking to our expert staff in any of our Regency facilities. Regency Nursing’s wound care specialists work hand-in-hand with patients and their doctors to maximize wound healing. To learn more, feel free to contact us here.