New Ways To Heal Old Wounds

There is an epidemic occurring (I know what you are thinking: another??), considered “silent” by many, taking place world-wide. Although research is on-going, and advances in technique and technology are announced almost daily, no one wants to talk about the non-healing wound they have. But chronic wounds affect around 6.5 million patients in our country, and the costs of caring for those afflicted is staggering.

It is claimed that more than$25 billion is spent annually on the treatment of chronic wounds, and the burden is growing rapidly, as a consequence of increasing health care costs, an aging population and a sharp rise in the incidence of diabetes and obesity worldwide.

Chronic wounds are those that have failed to proceed through an orderly and timely reparative process, which should result in an intact skin layer. Often these problems are disguised as a “co-morbid” condition, meaning they are simple labeled as part of some other affliction, usually a “highly branded” disease, such as diabetes or obesity.

Yet, they pose a major threat to the public health and economy of the United States. But there is hope, in the form of on-going research, and the discovery of new medicines, technologies, and techniques. Some very successful methods are actually quite old, and continue to be utilized. One such example is the total contact cast, applied for weight bearing ulcers, which are found on the bottom of the foot. This specialized casting process removes pressure from the site of the wound, and spreads those pressures throughout the foot and lower leg.

It was developed by Dr. Paul Brand, while studying leprosy in India in the 1940’s. This disease, although now fairly rare, causes the development of ulcerations on weight bearing areas, because of the loss of the sensation of pain. This is a similar process to what happens to so many diabetics. The total contact cast has been proven to be the most effective method of healing this particular type of wound.

So much of what can be done to heal a wound depends on recognizing what type it is, and therefore, what is causing it. When there is poor blood flow to the tissues, a unique new form of electrical stimulation has been shown to be extremely effective in producing new, vascularized tissue. When used in conjunction with some of the new devices for opening up clogged blood vessels, many limbs may be saved. That is why healing these lesions is so important: the end result of a non-healing wound is often amputation. The statistics on lifespan after a major amputation are not very good, so losing a leg is not really the “end” result!

When there is loss of some of the deeper tissue layers, an incredibly successful technique is the use of a wound vac, which, quite literally, is a device that sucks the air away from an open sore, creating a vacuum over it. This results in the proliferation of healthy, new tissue. This method has been in widespread use for two decades, and has allowed wound care specialists to save many lives.

The most common type of lower extremity wound occurs on the lower leg, and is the result of vein disease. The condition is termed venous insufficiency, and though it rarely leads to limb loss, it is life altering. Those afflicted are usually consigned to the recurrent application of tight, compressive wraps, applied to the leg, in an attempt to heal the wound. But an older technology has advanced considerably, and an electrical boot system, used only an hour a day, has proven itself to be extraordinarily effective at healing these lesions. It is also very good at keeping them closed, which is a huge problem, since these ulcers are usually recurrent.

An exciting development which continues to advance is often termed “advanced biologics”. This is the topical application of cultured skin cells, or naturally occurring growth factors that assist the body in the healing process, and provide either the agents that trigger the healing process, or the actual cells that become new tissue. Exciting results are being seen with the use of placental tissue products, which contain stem cells. These cells have the ability to become any kind of tissue in the body, most importantly in this example, new skin and skin structures. The take-home message here is not for sufferers to decide what method or technique they need to heal their wound, but to understand that there is almost certainly some technique or medicine that will close their non-healing wound.

Many options exist, some older, some newer, for assisting the healing process, to jump start nature’s order for the closure of stubborn ulcers. Whatever the reason, be it blood flow or pressure, diabetes or malignancy, at Superior Foot and Ankle Centers, we have a technique to allow you to have a better quality of life.

Call now to make an appointment. It’s not only your quality of life which hangs in the balance, but your leg, and your life!