Understanding Wound Care

Wound Care 101:

How to Find the Right Treatment Program

The emotional, physical, and financial toll on those struggling with wounds can be painful. Depending upon the location and complexity of the wound, they can be debilitating. Living with a non-healing (chronic) wound can create hardship that prevents patients from working and living their normal lives.  Understanding what causes an acute wound (a wound that occurs from a sudden breakage of the skin versus one that develops over time) to become a chronic wound (a wound that does not follow the normal phases of healing in a timely manner) helps to determine the right steps needed for care and recovery. Recognizing the factors that lead to complications is also essential. Knowing what to look for and finding a Wound Care Specialist can be the key to healing.

Common Causes of Wounds

With proper care and hygiene, many wounds follow the normal healing process and resolve within four weeks. However, others remain in the inflammatory stage of healing, refusing to progress in an orderly fashion. The severity of the wound and the patient’s overall health can play a role in why this can happen. Crystal Stautzenberger, PAM Health Corporate Outpatient Program Director, and Peyton Cuellar, Outpatient Wound Care Program Director at PAM Health Specialty Hospital of Victoria North, have years of combined experience directing wound care management programs dedicated to treating acute, chronic, and complex wounds. Stautzenberger explains that some of the most common types of wounds treated at PAM Health Wound Care Centers include those caused by a number of circumstances, including:

  • Diabetes – Diabetic Foot Ulcers (DFU) can occur in people with diabetes. Because diabetes can cause nerve damage, patients may lose feeling in their feet. The disease can also affect blood flow to the feet, which can make it difficult for a sore or blister to heal. In extreme cases, chronic wounds in diabetic patients can result in a lower-limb amputation.
  • Crush Injury – A crush injury occurs when part of the body is squeezed between two heavy objects. Resulting damage can include broken bones, nerve injury, and open wounds.
  • Vascular Disease – Because blood flow plays such an important part in wound healing, when blood flow decreases due to vascular conditions, it can be a barrier to proper wound healing.
  • Infection – Infections like staph infections can eat away at the skin, create an open wound, and can slow down the wound healing process. When this happens, the body’s systems focus on fighting the infection versus healing the wound.
  • Swelling – When a part of the body fills up with excess fluid and is untreated, the swelling can cause the skin tissue to break down, leaving a weeping wound. These wounds can be at high risk for complications.
  • Radiation – Radiation therapy can damage the skin and soft tissues of the body. Patients receiving Radiation Therapy may also have a decreased capacity to heal and fight infection, which can cause difficult-to-heal wounds.

Cuellar shares that regardless of the cause of the wound, the factors that contribute positively to healing include:

Five Major Factors Contributing to Wound Healing

1.       Oxygenation – Oxygen helps wounds to heal and to fight off infection. Specific therapies like HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) provide higher levels of oxygen to the body to promote faster and more complete healing.

2.       Nutrition – Eating and hydrating properly play substantial roles in the health and healing of wounds. Getting enough protein is especially important because it helps to build, repair, and maintain body tissues. Staying hydrated helps maintain healthy blood flow because water is a major part of blood.

3.       Hygiene – Keeping a wound clean and clear of bacteria that can cause infection can dramatically improve healing.

4.       Lifestyle – Alcoholism, smoking, and lack of exercise can affect wound healing. All three factors interfere with the body’s normal functioning.

5.       Age – As people age, their skin may lose its elasticity and ability to heal as quickly.

Understanding the role each of these factors play in wound healing is an important part of getting better. Another critical component is finding the ideal Wound Care Center with specialists trained to deal with all types of wounds. Cuellar shares some of the qualities to look for when seeking treatment.

Wound Care Center Quality Indicators

  • Patient Satisfaction – How satisfied are the patients who have received treatment? Ask to see patient satisfaction rates. At PAM Health, we are proud of our wound care patient satisfaction rates.
  • Healing Rate – Look for Wound Care Centers with healing rates of greater than or equal to 92%.
  • Average Days to Heal – Although the number of days to heal depends upon various factors, knowing how many days – on average – it takes for wounds to heal can be an indicator of a strong wound healing program.
  • Individualized Treatment Plans – Hard-to-heal wounds can be extremely complex, and patients should avoid a one-size-fits-all treatment program.

In addition, Cuellar and Stautzenberger agree that patients can benefit when a Wound Care Center has a comprehensive approach to care. They suggest considering these factors when selecting a Wound Care Center:

  • Treatment Types – What types of evidence-based treatment does the center offer? Some of the latest technologies include Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), Wound Vac Therapy, Skin Flaps and Grafts, and Negative Pressure Wound Therapy.
  • Treatment Team Members – In addition to having a dedicated Medical Director, it is important for a Wound Care Center to have qualified, experienced Wound Care Physicians, Wound Care Nurse Specialists, and Ancillary Staff to help support patients through their journey. At PAM Health, we also have Physical and Occupational Therapy on-site to help patients with pain management, strengthening, and mobility as they heal.
  • Approach to Care – At PAM Health, we create individualized treatment plans for each patient. If one treatment does not seem to be working as planned, we will try other treatment options until we find the one that shows progress. Along the way, we will explain exactly what we are doing and why.
  • Healthcare Partners – Wound care involves multiple systems, so it is important to have strong relationships with Vascular Specialists, Endocrinologists, Plastic Surgeons, and other medical professionals who can play a large part in patient recovery.

Understandably, wound care patients can often be nervous about entering into a treatment program because they may have been living with their wounds for a long time. However, the friendly and caring team members at PAM Health Wound Care Centers are able to help patients set their worries aside by taking the time to explain how we can help them. Very often, patients become like family, and our teams dedicate themselves to helping heal our patients so they can return to a normal lifestyle.

To learn more about how PAM Health can help with wound care, read about Juan Munoz’s Worker’s Compensation wound healing journey following a workplace crush injury. To find a PAM Health Wound Care Center near you, visit our Wound Care Center page.