Living Well: Solutions for wounds that won’t heal
July 10, 2018
Maybe you've heard that putting Vaseline or aloe vera oil on a wound will help it heal. Or, that you should take supplements of vitamin A, copper and zinc to promote healing. While these home remedies might work with minor wounds, they won't do much to heal complex wounds. For those, you may need extra help from a wound specialist.
Memorial Regional Health has offered wound care for years, but the health system formally developed a Wound Care Clinic a little more than a year ago. It helps people heal complex wounds caused by diabetes, ulcers, pressure, trauma, surgery and swelling, among other causes.
"At MRH, we treat quite a few wounds caused by diabetes or swelling, as well as other causes. We have had good success healing the majority of wounds that we've seen," said Dr. Jeff Womble, medical director of the MRH Wound Care Clinic and general surgeon with MRH.
With wound care, your care will be guided by a general surgeon and carried out by a registered nurse who is wound care certified — Denise Huff — who is enthusiastic about wound care.
"I love wounds. I know that sounds funny, but it is amazing to see a patient go from having a complex wound to it being healed. In the last month, five patients who we have been treating at the wound clinic are now healed," Huff said.
A common wound is a venous stasis wound. It occurs when there is inadequate outflow from an extremity resulting in swelling. Swelling in the legs can be caused by a heart or circulation problem, kidney disease, lymphedema, inactivity, obsesity and other reasons, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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"We treat venous wounds with compression therapy to decrease swelling. With swelling, the skin can be stretched beyond its limits, causing wounds to form. Compression helps keep the swelling down, works to heal wounds and prevents more from forming. We may also order tests to make sure you have an adequate supply of blood," Huff said.
Sometimes, incision wounds after surgery don't heal well. Common causes are wound infection, poor nutritional status and diabetes. With surgical and other wounds, negative pressure wound therapy is often used. Negative pressure wound therapy involves using a vacuum-assisted closurem, or VAC — a technique to drain the wound that usually brings good results.
"Negative pressure wound therapy keeps the wound environment healthy and conducive to healing," Womble said.
"I've had multiple patients with wounds where I perform negative pressure therapy, and they are fully healed over a relatively short time," Huff added.
A patient's plan of care often involves coming to the wound clinic one to five times per week until the wound is healed. Patients may be directed to change dressings regularly at home. If a patient is home-bound, Home Health can help coordinate dressing changes.
"It's hard to cope with an open wound day in and day out, so we are happy to offer this service to help patients heal," Womble said.
If you have a wound that won't go away, check with your primary care provider about solutions. If he or she thinks you need specialized wound care, you may be referred to the Wound Care Clinic, housed in the Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic.
For more information, call the Wound Care Clinic at 970-826-2420.