Venous Ulcers

WoundSource Practice Accelerator's picture

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).

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By: Karen Bauer, NP-C, CWS

How often should ankle-brachial indexes (ABIs) be repeated? If someone has a stage 3 pressure injury to the top of the foot, should compression be held on that extremity?

The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Society guidelines suggest ABIs every 3 months routinely, while the Society for Vascular Surgery guidelines recommend that post endovascular repair, ABIs are done at 6 and 12 months (then yearly). For open revascularization, surveillance studies can be at 3, 6, and 12 months. Ultimately, many factors play into this. If the ulcer is closing and the limb remains stable, you might forgo frequent ABIs, but if the ulcer is not closing, or the patient has new or persistent ischemic symptoms, you should check ABIs more frequently. As far as compression with a dorsal foot pressure injury is concerned, as long as arterial status has been ascertained, compression can be utilized. The original source of pressure should be removed (shoe? ankle-foot orthotic?). If there is a venous component, cautious compression will aid in ulcer resolution.

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Holly Hovan MSN, APRN, RN-BC, CWOCN-AP

Identifying wound etiology before initiating topical treatment is important. Additionally, correctly documenting wound etiology is significant in health care settings for many reasons. Accurate documentation and appropriate topical treatment are two critical components of a strong wound treatment plan and program. Bedside staff members should be comfortable with describing wounds, tissue types, and differentiating wound etiologies. Training should be provided by the certified wound care clinician, along with follow-up (chart reviews and documentation checks, one-on-one education as needed, and routine competency or education days). Additionally, the wound care clinician should be able to develop an appropriate treatment plan based on wound etiology, by involving additional disciplines as needed to best treat the whole patient.

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By the WoundSource Editors

Collateral circulation: A collateral blood vessel circuit that may be adapted or remodeled to minimize the use of occluded arteries. Collateralization may offset some of the physiological signs of peripheral artery disease, such as maintaining a normal capillary refill.

Critical limb ischemia: A severe form of peripheral arterial disease in which a severe blockage of the arteries of the lower extremities reduces blood flow. It is a chronic condition that is often characterized by wounds of the lower extremity.

Dependent rubor: A light red to dusky-red coloration that is visible when the leg is in a dependent position (such as hanging off the edge of a table) but not when it is elevated above the heart. The presence of dependent rubor is often an indicator of underlying peripheral arterial disease. When the leg is raised above the level of the heart, its color will normalize.

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By the WoundSource Editors

Lower extremity wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs), venous ulcers, and arterial ulcers have been linked to poor patient outcomes, such as patient mortality and recurrence of the wound. Although precise recurrence rates can be difficult to determine and can vary across different patient populations, we do know that the recurrence rates of lower extremity wounds are quite high.

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By the WoundSource Editors

Wounds of the lower extremity, such as chronic venous leg ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers, often have a severe impact on patients' quality of life. Symptoms may range from mild to debilitating, depending on the location of the injury and its severity. These types of wounds also affect a tremendous number of people because lower extremity wounds are estimated to occur in up to 13% of the United States population. The estimated annual cost of treating lower extremity wounds is at least $20 billion in the United States.

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By the WoundSource Editors

Lower extremity ulcers, such as venous and arterial ulcers, can be complex and costly and can cause social distress. An estimated 1% of the adult population is affected by vascular wound types, and 3.6% of those affected are older than 65 years of age. Many factors contribute to lower extremity wound chronicity, including venous disease, arterial disease, neuropathy, and less common causes of metabolic disorders, hematological disorders, and infective diseases. A total of 15% to 20% of lower limb ulcers have a mixed etiology.

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By the WoundSource Editors

Before the mid-1990s, venous disorders and disease were classified almost solely on clinical appearance, which failed to achieve diagnostic precision or reproducible treatment results. In response to this, the American Venous Forum developed a classification system in 1994, which was revised in 2004. This classification system has gained widespread acceptance across the clinical and medical research communities, and most published papers now use all or part of the CEAP system (defined in the next section). This system was once again updated in 2020.