For most people, wound healing is a natural, uneventful process. For others, it can be a complex problem requiring specialized medical treatment. If you suffer from a hard-to-heal wound, we may be able to help.
Our trained specialists follow a multidisciplinary approach to wound healing. After an initial evaluation, each patient receives a comprehensive, individualized plan designed to help heal these complicated wounds. We work to address the underlying cause of the problem, control infection and improve the overall health of our patients. We are committed to providing care with dignity and respect, and we focus on the whole person by considering your physical and emotional needs, because we know these are integral parts of the healing process. Our staff will coordinate your care with your primary care physician to ensure your overall well-being.
Other wound treatment options include:
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
At St. Luke’s Medical Center, we offer state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help heal wounds. Over the course of several treatments, many patients achieve wound healing that is not otherwise possible using other methods.
- Specialty Wound Dressings
Medicines and dressings can sometimes encourage wounds to close and heal.
The removal of dead tissue around the wound, or debridement, is often needed to clean the wound and promote healing.
Antibiotics are often used, even if an infection is not clearly present. This is done to prevent an infection. Usually antibiotics are administered for 4-6 weeks.
- Alleviation of Weight-bearing Wounds
Keeping pressure off of foot ulcers promotes healing. Sometimes special casts or boots are placed on the foot to "off-load" pressure from the ulcer.
- Blood Sugar Control
Infected ulcers are likely to cause high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels lower immune response and prevent wound healing. Adjustments in diet or medications can aid in fighting infections and healing wounds. Sometimes insulin shots are needed in the short term to achieve optimal blood sugar control.
- Skin Grafts
A bio-engineered skin graft or human skin graft can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers which fail to heal with conventional treatments. Skin grafts have been shown to speed up the healing process.
Bypass surgery to improve blood flow within the arteries of the legs may help with wound healing and spare amputations. As a last resort, amputation surgery may be needed to stop the spread of infection to the rest of the body
Types of Wounds
A resistant wound is simply a wound that will not heal using conventional wound healing processes. Some of the most common wounds treated in our Wound Center include:
- Diabetic Foot Ulcers
These sores often occur on the feet of people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Up to 25% of people with diabetes develop foot problems. Diabetic foot ulcers usually occur on the bottom of the foot. Diabetes can damage the nerves of the legs and feet so that you may not feel a blister or sore when it begins to appear. If undetected, the sore may become larger and infected. This may lead to an amputation of a toe, a foot, or even a leg. If you have diabetes and have any of the risk factors mentioned, tell your doctor.
- Lower Leg Ulcer
Lower leg ulcers are non-healing skin wounds on the lower leg, foot or toes. Causes of leg ulcers include trauma to the skin, poor circulation, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis (a narrowing of a vessel). Atherosclerosis can be caused by Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) which can affect the venous or arterial systems.
- Venous Stasis Ulcers
Venous ulcers affect over half a million people in the United States every year and account for 80 to 90% of all leg ulcers. Venous ulcers are located below the knee and are primarily found on the inner part of the leg, just above the ankle. These ulcers are common in patients who have a history of leg swelling, varicose veins, or a history of blood clots in either the superficial or the deep veins of the legs. Ulcers may affect one or both legs.
- Arterial (Ischemic) Ulcers
Arterial ulcers are usually located on the feet and often occur on the heels, tips of toes, between the toes where the toes rub against one another or anywhere the bones may protrude and rub against bed sheets, socks or shoes. Arterial ulcers also occur commonly in the nail bed if the toenail cuts into the skin or if the patient has had recent aggressive toe nail trimming or an ingrown toenail removed. Arterial ulcers are typically very painful, especially at night, and dangling the feet over the side of the bed often temporarily relieves this pain.
- Bone Infection
Bone infections are almost always caused by bacteria. Over time, the result can be destruction of the bone itself. Bone infections may occur at any age. Certain conditions increase the risk of developing such an infection, including sickle cell anemia, injury, the presence of a foreign body (such as a bullet or a screw placed to hold together a broken bone), intravenous drug use (such as heroin), diabetes, kidney dialysis, surgical procedures to bony areas, and untreated infections of tissue near a bone.
Gangrene is a complication of cell death (or necrosis) characterized by the decay of body tissues, which become black and smell bad. It is caused by infection, usually the result of insufficient blood supply, and is often associated with diabetes and long-term smoking. This condition is most common in the lower extremities. The best treatment for gangrene is restoration of blood flow (revascularization) of the affected organ, which can reverse some of the effects of necrosis and allow healing.
- Skin Tears and Lacerations
A skin tear is a traumatic wound which separates the first several layers of skin from one another. Skin lacerations are torn, ragged wounds that involve deeper tissue and may require suturing to assist with closure and healing.
- Radiation Burns
Radiation burns occur from exposure to radiation and can be as mild as sunburn to burns caused by radiation used in the treatment of cancer.
- Postoperative Infection
Postoperative infections are caused by bacteria entering the surgical incision area. Postoperative wound infections can delay recovery and increase the length of a hospital stay. Multiple risk factors can contribute to an increase in postoperative wound infection, including age, concurrent diseases (such as diabetes), malnutrition, and other skin infections.
To make a referral or to contact the Arizona Wound Center at St. Luke's Medical Center, please call 602-251-8714.