Venous Ulcers

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By the WoundSource Editors

Moist wound healing is the current cost-effective, evidence-based modality to achieve faster wound healing rates and decreased pain and infection. As part of the wound healing process, acute wounds produce reparative exudates consisting of growth factors to support extracellular matrix production; in contrast, chronic wounds contain inflammatory-producing exudates studded with cytokines and proteases that may help maintain the inflammatory phase but can exert destructive effects on the fragile wound bed and may extend to the periwound surface.

Holly Hovan's picture

Holly Hovan MSN, GERO-BC, APRN, CWOCN-A

Predominant pain pattern, ulcer location, ulcer appearance, type and amount of wound exudate, and vascular and sensorimotor assessment are some key factors used to determine the primary etiology of lower extremity ulcers.

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Arteriography: Also called angiography, this technique is the medical imaging of blood vessels to look for aneurysm and stenosis.

Hemosiderin staining: Hemosiderin staining results in a red, ruddy appearance on the lower leg and ankle. This appearance is caused when red blood cells are broken down and not removed adequately as a result of venous insufficiency or another medical condition.

Phlebectomy: A minimally invasive procedure (usually outpatient) to remove varicose veins located near the surface of the skin.

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Approximately 2.5 million Americans are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency, and approximately 20% will go on to develop venous leg ulcerations. Chronic venous leg ulcers (VLUs) account for 90% of all chronic ulcers of the lower limb region. Wound chronicity takes place in wounds that are stalled and/or remain unhealed after four to six weeks. Although evidence-based care has been established, it has been reported that 30% of patients still experience delayed healing, with wounds often failing to heal within a 24-week time frame. Identifying risk factors for VLUs is imperative in best outcomes.

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Venous leg ulcers can be slow to heal; the longer a wound is present, the less likely it is to heal. To move a venous leg ulcer through the phases of wound healing may require more than just basic wound care.

Chronic venous leg ulcers can be prone to chronic inflammation. Changes in the microcirculation down to the capillary level can elevate levels of cytokines and proteases, thus leaving the wound stuck in the inflammatory cycle. Controlling, reducing, or eliminating inflammation is necessary to move the wound toward closure.

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Of all the types of chronic wounds in lower extremities, venous leg ulcers are the most common, and they account for up to 70% of lower leg ulcers. Infection is a common complication in these wounds, however, and may contribute to chronicity. Biofilm is another common complicating factor. Preventing infection, removing unhealthy tissue from the wound, providing dressings that manage exudate, and using advanced modalities can help heal these chronic wound types and prevent a recurrence.

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Hard-to-heal venous leg ulcers (VLUs) comprise the most common type of leg ulcer and impose a major economic burden on the health care system. These wounds can be difficult to heal, and they often experience recurrence within three months of closure, thus further complicating treatment. When managing VLUs, it is important to select strategies that are evidence based and cost-effective. Early diagnosis and implementation of interventions can encourage best outcomes.

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Chronic wounds of the lower extremities impose an increasing burden on health care providers and systems, and they can have a devastating impact on patients and their families. These wounds include diabetic ulcers, venous ulcers, arterial ulcers, and pressure injuries. The estimated socioeconomic cost of chronic wounds is 2% to 4% of the health budget in Western countries. Moreover, patient mortality in individuals with chronic wounds has been estimated at 28% over a two-year period, significantly higher than the 4% mortality rate reported for 75 to 79 year-olds without chronic wounds.

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Chronic and complex wounds of the lower extremity frequently recur. It is difficult to determine the precise recurrence rate across patients with different lower extremity wound types, including diabetic foot ulcers, arterial ulcers, pressure injuries, and venous ulcers. However, we know that recurrence rates are high; nearly 40% of patients with an ulcer will develop a recurrence within one year of healing. This percentage is 60% at three years after healing and 65% at the five-year mark.

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By Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine Journal Review Club

Hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure injuries, and venous leg ulcers, comprise a significant portion of health care visits, and these wounds place a physical and economic burden on many patients. These hard-to-heal wounds are defined as wounds with stagnant or delayed stages of healing that fail to resolve within eight weeks. Finding ways to accelerate this healing process is of great importance because it can reduce the physical and economic burden on patients, as well as decreasing costs for health care facilities. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are endopeptidases, which are involved in many healing processes, including the cell signaling processes, migration processes, angiogenesis, and the degradation of extracellular proteins. These mechanisms are necessary for the wound healing process by breaking down damaged tissue. In the late stages of healing, when breaking down of tissue is no longer necessary, tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases down-regulate MMPs. In hard-to-heal wounds, this process is thrown off balance, with delays in the subsequent stages of healing. In an attempt to restore this balance, MMPs have been investigated for their role in wound healing through MMP-inhibiting wound dressings. There have been a number of consequential reviews done using current market wound dressings, such as oxidized regenerated cellulose/collagen and Technology Lipido-Colloid with nano-oligosaccharide factor (TLC-NOSF).