The majority of cuts and grazes are minor and start to heal within a few days. In fact, 60% of all wounds heal with minimum intervention - however 20% will require some kind of specialist intervention and a further 20% will never heal and need ongoing palliative care.
A wound is considered chronic when it doesn’t heal in the expected time frame - and the correct treatment of these wounds is critical, as improper or lack of wound care can result in amputation or even death. Different types of wounds often require very specific and specialised management for the best chance to heal, with wound care specialists treating a number of different type of wounds such as inflammation, superficial and deep abrasions, pressure sores, burns and leg ulcers.
Like all branches of medicine, wound care is constantly evolving and pharmaceutical companies are always developing new drugs and dressings to help improve healing processes, making wound care an important area for healthcare market research.
The treatment prescribed and dressing used very much depends on the type and severity of the wound as well as the stage of the healing process. Practitioners will assess and monitor the stage a wound is at before planning the care and choosing the right dressing:
Film dressings are used for superficial abrasions or for areas that are at risk of friction. Often used as a preventative measure, they are commonly used post surgery to cover an area where a patient has had stitches.
This type of dressing works by keeping the wound moist and they are mostly used in cases where there is necrotic tissue in the wound bed that needs to be debrided, as seen in pressure sores and leg ulcers.
These types of dressings keep exudate off surrounding skin to prevent healthy tissue becoming sore and breaking down. Wounds with excessive exudate will often require daily dressing changes.
Antimicrobial dressings are used when a wound becomes infected and can be used instead of or alongside a course of antibiotics. Burns are commonly treated with these types of dressings as it’s important that they remain completely clean.
These are used in the treatment of venous leg ulcers to help improve circulation. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, three or four layers of specialised bandages will be used, with a primary dressing placed underneath if suitable. Patients will also need to elevate their leg to optimise healing.
Who treats it?
There is a multidisciplinary team of specialists involved in the care of patients with complex wounds, skin problems and vascular problems. This team could include but isn’t limited to:
Tissue Viability Nurses
Tissue viability nurses provide a specialist service to patients with a wide variety of complex wounds including pressure ulcer prevention and management, management of leg ulceration and management of traumatic injuries and complex non-healing wounds. They assess and treat patients both at clinics and at their homes and are also involved in all aspects of the prevention and management of wounds. In addition, they also provide clinical advice, support and education based on national guidelines and best practice recommendations and assist the tissue viability team.
Wound Care Nurses
A relatively new position in the medical field, wound care nurses help patients to maintain excellent wound care. They specialise in the proper management of wound care by treating and monitoring wounds that are the result of disease, injury or medical treatments and usually work in nursing homes or hospitals as well as travelling to patients’ homes. Their main responsibilities are to quickly and safely heal various types of wounds such as surgical openings, bedsores, feeding tube sites and abscesses and they also create and implement treatment plans, monitor infections and clean wounds.
Wound Care Physicians
Doctors caring for wounds come from a range of different disciplines including general surgery, vascular surgery, podiatry and dermatology, and depending on the origin, location and extent of the wound other specialists may become involved in the treatment too. Plastic surgery specialists can also get involved depending on the severity of the scarring or damage left from the wound, especially when dealing with burns.
Many patients with venous leg ulcers will be under the care of vascular specialists because they are very painful, often chronic and difficult to treat. Vascular surgeons treat and dress wounds, often applying layers of medicated compression bandages, to improve circulation and nutrition to the wound in a germ-free environment. Irrigation is also standard, and sophisticated analysis would lead them to determine if curettage is required to remove damaged tissue. The patient will receive a full evaluation of the vascular flow to their wound area and then a team approach will be utilised to maximise the success of wound healing.
Here at GKA we have completed 34 projects in the topic area of wound care and chronic wounds which have included the recruitment of Wound Care Nurses, Tissue Viability Nurses, District Nurses, Surgeons and patients. We have over 150 wound care and tissue viability nurses on our panel, so if you are conducting a healthcare market research study in wound care and would like help and advice, look no further! Check out our panel guide for more information on the type of people we can access for you.