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Wound bed maintenance is the process taken by the bedside clinician or nurse to create or preserve the wound environment at optimal conditions and thus encourage the chronic wound to move to a state of closure or healing. Critical thinking skills require a trained eye focused on the characteristics of the wound to move a chronic wound in to a healing phase and ultimately wound closure. The goal of every assessment and encounter includes promoting positive wound characteristics while suppressing negative wound characteristics. This can often feel like a balancing act with not much wiggle room, yet knowing the basic principles of wound healing can help the wound get closer to the finish line.

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Preparing the wound bed to encourage and promote healing is a well-established concept. Wound healing is a complex process that progresses through several phases, including coagulation and hemostasis, inflammation, cell proliferation and repair, and epithelialization and remodeling of scar tissue. In many instances, a non-healing wound can become stalled in one of the phases and fail to progress through the healing process. It is estimated that between 4% and 5% of the adult population will have a non-healing wound at some point.

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Patient education should be a priority to empower patients to care for themselves and improve patient outcomes. Involving patients in their own care can help them to understand about their wound and be more adherent to the overall treatment plan. Remember to involve the caregiver or family if applicable. Ask your patient questions about who will be changing the dressing so the appropriate parties can be involved.

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Anoxia: A condition marked by the absence of oxygen reaching the tissues. It differs from hypoxia, in which there is a decrease in the oxygen levels to tissue.

Biocide tolerance: Demonstrating a tolerance to substances that destroy living things, such as bacteria. The initial stage in the life of biofilm can become biocide tolerant within 12 hours.

Calcium alginate: A water-insoluble, gelatinous substance that is highly absorbent. Dressings with calcium alginate can help to maintain a moist healing environment.

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The outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, is the body's physical barrier to the environment. This barrier is compromised when moisture or trauma damages the epidermis. Frequently, moisture or adhesives can damage the skin and cause painful injuries. The damaged area is then more susceptible to infection and delayed healing.

Overexposure to moisture can compromise the skin's integrity by disrupting the delicate molecular arrangement of intercellular lipids in the stratum corneum and the intercellular connections between epidermal cells or corneocytes. The term moisture-associated skin damage (MASD) encompasses a spectrum of injuries characterized by denudation (inflammation and erosion) of the epidermis resulting from prolonged exposure to various sources of moisture or irritants such as wound exudate, perspiration, urine, stool, or ostomy effluent.

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Vulnerable skin within the skin microclimate is caused by a multitude of factors that are often aggravated by one another. Urine and feces, for example, have a negative impact on the skin as a result of the microorganisms and enzymes they contain. These factors break down the skin barrier and cause inflammation through the release of cytokines that trigger an immune response leading to symptoms of dermatitis (i.e., moisture-associated skin damage [MASD]). Incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD) is one type of MASD, and the external factors that contribute to IAD include microclimate (water, temperature, pH), mechanical forces (friction, pressure, shear), and biochemical factors (fungi, irritants, bacteria, enzymes).

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Human skin is home to many types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that compose the skin microbiota or microbiome. As with microorganisms in the gut, these organisms have an important role in protecting from pathogens and breaking down natural products. The sheer quantity of life found in the skin microbiome is staggering. It often contains up to one billion microorganisms on a single square centimeter.

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Urinary incontinence is a relatively common condition marked by loss of control of the bladder. In severe cases, it can have a detrimental impact on the quality of life of patients with this condition. Because of the sensitive and embarrassing nature of the topic, urinary incontinence tends to be underreported.

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Absorbent briefs: Briefs used to absorb urine and stool and to help prevent moisture-associated skin damage in patients with incontinence issues. Briefs with high breathability and wicking help to maintain the skin microclimate.

Barrier products: Creams, sprays, wipes, or other products used to seal the skin and protect it from breakdown caused by moisture or incontinence.

Cyanoacrylates: A skin sealant that bonds to the skin surface and integrates with the epidermis. Cyanoacrylates are strong and resistant to washing off.

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Sharp debridement is by far the fastest way to remove non-viable tissue from a wound bed. This modality must be performed by a licensed skilled practitioner using sharp instruments or tools to remove unhealthy tissue. It is reimbursed by most payers when documentation and medical necessity support its use. There are times when sharp debridement is contraindicated, however. This blog reviews the contraindications and alternatives to sharp debridement.

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