Practice Accelerator

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Wounds typically heal in four sequential but overlapping phases — hemostasis, inflammatory, proliferative and remodeling — ultimately leading to tissue regeneration. Healing sometimes stalls for various reasons, a key one being extensive inflammation, which disrupts the normal cascade of healing and leads to chronic and hard-to-heal wounds. A vicious cycle of ongoing inflammation, pain and poor quality of life often follows. Understanding how to break this cycle is essential for wound care clinicians who want to optimize healing outcomes and patient quality of life.

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Wound healing can stall for a number of reasons. Wounds that have not healed or significantly reduced in size after four to six weeks are considered chronic. They are characterized by a multitude of impeding factors including biofilm, excess matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and extracellular matrix degradation, inflammation, fibrosis, unresponsive keratinocytes and fibroblasts, and atypical growth factor signaling.

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Biofilm: Colonies of multiphenotype, free-floating bacteria that secrete a polysaccharide matrix that protects the bacteria from immune response and antibiotics.

Chronic wounds: Wounds that stall in the inflammation phase and fail to progress toward healing within 3 months are considered chronic or hard to heal.

Continuous inflammation: When wound healing becomes stalled in the inflammatory phase because of the presence of bacteria and their endotoxins, the wound is unable to move out of the inflammatory phase and into the repair phase.

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As scientists and researchers have delved deeper into the causes of wounds and wound chronicity, matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs, have come into sharper focus. MMPs are not just present in chronic wounds — they also play an essential role in acute wounds.

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An injury to the human body initiates a wound healing chain reaction that occurs in four sequential but overlapping phases: hemostasis, inflammatory, proliferative and maturation. This post focuses on the second (inflammatory) phase, which begins after blood flow stops (i.e., hemostasis) and defender white blood cells, or leukocytes, migrate to the site of the injury — a process known as chemotaxis.

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Wound bed preparation has been performed for decades in managing wounds of various etiologies. The wound healing process consists of a complex interlinked and independent cascade, which not all wounds follow in a consistent, organized manner. The TIMERS acronym, consisting of four general steps, has assisted clinicians globally to provide a systematic approach to wound bed preparation that includes Tissue debridement, Infection or Inflammation, Moisture balance, Edge effect, Regeneration and repair, and Social factors.1 Clinicians should have practical knowledge of the principles of advanced wound care management, as well as the challenges faced in treating complex wounds.

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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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