How to treat chronic wounds: A path to healing

How to treat chronic wounds: A path to healing

Chronic wounds are a significant healthcare concern affecting millions of individuals worldwide. They pose a considerable burden on patients’ quality of life and can lead to severe complications if left untreated. Fortunately, advancements in wound care have revolutionized the treatment landscape, offering hope for those affected. There are key principles and emerging therapies that contribute to the healing process for chronic wound management.

Acute wounds progress through a predictable healing process in a predictable and timely manner.  Chronic wounds fail to follow the normal stages of tissue repair. Chronic wounds often remain in the inflammatory phase, leading to prolonged inflammation, impaired blood supply, and disrupted cellular activity. Contributing factors may include biofilm, bacteria or fungal growth, poor circulation, diabetes, venous insufficiency and patient compliance. 


Wounds are considered chronic if they fail to progress for 30 days or longer.  If good local wound care has not been successful, then other causative factors need to be considered. The patient’s overall health, including nutritional status, underlying medical conditions, and lifestyle habits, should be assessed and modified as needed. Silent inflammation may also play a role in delayed wound healing by an overworked immune system. 


Wound bed preparation plays a crucial role in creating an environment conducive to healing. This process involves removing devitalized tissue with various debridement methods. Infection must be treated and controlled. Excessive moisture or dryness will need to be optimized for cellular growth and migration. Chronic wounds will likely have a longer path to healing but following these principles and adjusting as needed is the key. 


Wound dressings form the foundation of chronic wound management. They provide a protective barrier against infection, manage exudate, and facilitate a moist wound environment, which is essential for healing. However, basic traditional options like gauze packing and wet-dry may cause more harm than good. Traditional adhesive films and hydrocolloids have a place but are also not appropriate for all wounds. Advanced dressings such as hydrogels, foams, alginates and collagen wound dressings should be considered to promote healing and manage specific wound characteristics, especially for chronic wounds.


Advancements in wound care have brought forth innovative adjunctive modalities and therapies that harness the body’s regenerative potential. Biological therapies, such as growth factors, have shown promising results by stimulating cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and extracellular matrix formation. Cellular therapies, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells, offer exciting avenues for chronic wound healing by enhancing tissue regeneration and modulating the inflammatory response.


Negative Pressure Wound Therapy, commonly known as NPWT, is a non-invasive treatment modality that uses controlled suction to promote wound healing. This therapy helps in reducing edema, increasing blood flow, and removing excess fluid from the wound bed. NPWT also promotes the growth of healthy granulation tissue and aids in wound contraction. It has become a valuable tool in managing chronic wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers and pressure ulcers. Newer NPWT models are also smaller and portable, making this option more reasonable. 


Advanced therapies and emerging technologies have shown great potential in the treatment of chronic wounds. These include bioengineered skin substitutes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), and electrical stimulation. Bioengineered skin substitutes provide a scaffold for cell migration and regeneration, while HBOT enhances oxygenation, accelerates healing, and combats infection. Electrical stimulation therapies utilize low-level electrical currents to promote cell proliferation and tissue repair.


The management of chronic wounds requires a multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare professionals from various fields, such as wound care specialists, nurses, dietitians, and physical therapists. Collaborative efforts ensure comprehensive assessment, tailored treatment plans, and ongoing monitoring of the wound’s progress. Equally important is patient education. Individuals must be empowered to participate in their wound care actively. Lifestyle modifications are often needed, as well as acceptance and adherence to prescribed treatment regimens.


Long-standing open wounds are a burden on the patient mentally, physically and financially.. Caring for these wounds may result in a change in mobility status and physical independence. Many people with wounds are reliant on care from family, friends and healthcare providers in facilities or their homes. Without care, many of these individuals will continue to decline. 


The treatment of chronic wounds is a complex process that demands a multifaceted approach, addressing the underlying factors contributing to impaired healing. From traditional wound dressings to advanced therapies and emerging technologies, the field of wound care continues to evolve, offering new hope for patients. By combining a holistic assessment, optimal wound bed preparation, and a multidisciplinary approach, we can pave the way toward healing, improving the lives of those affected by chronic wounds.

©2020 Human Biosciences, Inc. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice.