Wound healing is a normal human physiological process. However, it is complex involving the replacement of damaged cells and tissues on the epidermal layer of the skin. Under normal circumstances, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete. As crucial as wound healing is to the body, sometimes conditions may prevent or slow the healing process. Slow healing is a serious medical condition that needs to be attended to as soon as possible because the complications that result from a delayed or slowed healing process may be severe.
What Can Cause Slow Healing to Occur?
Slow healing often occurs when there is poor circulation in the wound area, but there can be various causes. Factors that can trigger delayed wound healing include:
- Size of the Wound
- Diabetes Mellitus Type II
- Overweight or Obesity
- Venous diseases (chronic)
- Arterial Disease
What Types of Complications Can Happen?
Possible complications resulting from slow wound healing include:
- Hematoma – a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues
- Dehiscence – also known as “wound separation” – a complication where the edges of a wound no longer meet
- Infections – for example, osteomyelitis (an infection in the bone caused by bacteria or fungi)
- Gangrene – the death of body tissues due to lack of blood flow
What to Do When a Wound is Not Healing
When a wound is not healing, the affected individual must visit a healthcare provider for medical evaluation. The failure of a wound to heal can be a symptom of an underlying undiagnosed health condition. For example, an individual unaware they have type 2 diabetes may experience a delayed healing process, especially in the lower extremities. Therefore, medical intervention is necessary once the underlying cause has been established.
Once the wound has been evaluated and any underlying medical issues diagnosed, a treatment plan can be developed. Treatment plans may include one or more of the following.
- Debridement – The first step in treating a wound is debridement. This is the process of removing damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound. Wound debridement speeds up the healing process.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – This therapy involves using oxygen to treat wounds therapeutically. Many wounds don’t heal because the tissue is oxygen-starved. Saturating the tissue with oxygen speeds up the healing process. This therapy is widespread and has effectively treated wounds that don’t heal promptly.
- Nutrition – If the body tissues are starved for nutrition, they will not be able to heal when wounded. Therefore, this treatment involves correcting a malnutrition status.
- Physical Therapy – Some physical therapy techniques, such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound, can be used in wound management.
- Diabetic Management – Diabetes creates problems with immune system activation. The amount of immune fighter cells and their response to a wound is often reduced in diabetics. As a result, the immune system doesn’t function properly, so wound healing is slower, and the risk of infection is higher. Therefore, wound management education for people with diabetes is essential to prevent more injuries and manage old wounds.
- Surgery – Plastic surgery can be necessary for delayed wound healing, particularly in nondiabetic patients. However, this treatment is reserved for severe cases or after other failed treatments.
Carolina Regional Orthopaedics, P.A.
Are you experiencing a wound that hasn’t healed? Carolina Regional Orthopaedics, P.A. can help. Our wound care treatment team can evaluate you and recommend a plan to get you back to health. Contact us at 252-443-0400 and schedule an appointment today.