Chronic wounds affect roughly 6.5 million patients in the US. With recent advances in treatment and more knowledge of wound healing, we can now more accurately assess wound-related problems sooner, allowing better interventions early on to help improve outcomes.
Gary Gibbons, MD, medical director at South Shore Health System's Center for Wound Healing, answers some of the most frequently asked questions he hears from patients about wound care.
Question 1: What causes chronic wounds?
While the causes of non-healing wounds vary, the effects are always the same: they are painful, stressful and potentially dangerous. Proper treatment is crucial to the well-being of these patients. Factors such as immobilization, age, and circulatory problems contribute to the majority of chronic, non-healing wounds. Other wounds typically result from traumatic injury, non-healing surgical incisions and a variety of other diseases. In diabetic patients, impaired circulation combined with glucose-heavy blood delays the healing of wounds while promoting bacterial infection.
Question 2: Why is a special center necessary for treating complex wounds?
Complex, non-healing wounds—usually wounds that have not improved significantly in four weeks or have not healed completely in eight weeks—require specialized care because traditional medical settings may not offer patients the multifaceted attention and innovative technology that these wounds require. Problematic wounds that are not propery treated can result in severe health risks including infection, amputation, and even death.
Our team of wound care experts at the Center for Wound Healing provide state-of-the art care for complex wounds that have resisted healing for months or even years. Our wound diagnostic and treatment methods, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, help manage even the most complex wounds. The Center provides one central location where patients can expect expert, specialized care to help them heal and return to their daily activities more quickly. We treat a variety of complex wounds including:
- Diabetic and circulatory ulcers
- Pressure ulcers
- Non-healing surgical wounds
Question 3: What types of patients can benefit most from the expertise you provide?
High-risk patients—individuals with diabetes, autoimmune illnesses and other diseases that interfere with healing—can significantly benefit from the specialized care we provide. For many patients with chronic diseases, minor lesions can often lead to chronic, non-healing wounds with serious infection, gangrene and possible amputation. We perform careful assessment of each patient, tailoring care to meet their specific needs, while using evidence-based protocols to manage their wounds. Our goal is always to promote faster healing and improved quality of life.
Because many wounds are preventable, our wound care team helps educate patients on what they can do to prevent the wound from recurring. Expert wound care combined with equipping patients to be part of the treatment team through education help create good outcomes.
Question 4: What is the relationship between vascular medicine and wound care?
The most common wounds we see in our wound care center have a vascular disease component. Peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease and other issues with the heart and vessels can cause obstructions that hinder the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrition to a wound, therefore making healing slow and difficult.
The advantage of our Center is the vascular expertise of our physicians—assuring the most appropriate treatment strategy is applied for each patient in coordination with any vascular issues.
Question 5: What do patients in need of wound care services need to know when choosing a physician or Center?
Patients should always inquire as to what type of wounds the physician is able to treat and what advanced treatment options are available to assist with complex wound healing. Through assessment of each patient’s unique needs, we develop a treatment program based on their unique situation. A typical program will likely involve regular visits to the center to allow us to assess the effectiveness of treatment and make necessary adjustments.
South Shore Health System's outpatient Center for Wound Healing offers a comprehensive approach to treating patients with non-healing wounds. Patients from the Berkshires and beyond come to recieve treatment from our highly-skilled team of physicians, nurses and technicians with advanced training in wound care and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Learn more about our comprehensive wound management and treatment options or make an appointment today by calling 781-624-4950.