When the average person hears the term “wound care” they often think of cuts, scrapes, tourniquets, or bandages. But specialized wound care programs are much more; they play a vital role within the communities they serve. June is Wound Healing Awareness Month (WHAM), a time to recognize the challenges faced by individuals with non-healing wounds and increase awareness of how specialized care can save limbs and lives. We’re shining a light on the Wound Care Center and Hyperbaric Medicine at St. Luke’s Hospital, and how it has been providing comprehensive services in the community since 1973.
In the U.S., nearly 7 million people suffer from chronic wounds including diabetic foot ulcers, venous ulcers, and pressure injuries (bed sores). Early evaluation and treatment is very important to help avoid complications including infection, sepsis, or amputation.
The majority of wound care patients have been diagnosed with diabetes, which can greatly impact wound healing. Of the 34 million people
in the U.S. who have been diagnosed, approximately 150,000
will lose a limb after a chronic wound becomes severely infected.
“While many wounds heal naturally, others may be resistant to traditional therapies and require specialized care,” said Viktor Ballada, MD
, director of the Wound Care Center and Hyperbaric Medicine at St. Luke’s Hospital. “At St. Luke’s, we evaluate not just the wound itself, but other medical and physical conditions in the body which make healing of the wound more difficult. Our primary goal is to help patients avoid limb loss.”
The Wound Care Center and Hyperbaric Medicine at St. Luke’s Hospital treats a variety of chronic wounds and conditions from a whole body point of view, including diabetic wounds, pressure ulcers, burns and radiation injuries to the tissues following cancer treatment. Treatment methods range from debridement, or the removal of dead skin and tissue to stimulate healing; to advanced wound dressing technology; to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which can speed healing by carrying extra oxygen to the blood, organs and tissues. Our physicians may also recommend compression stockings, artificial skin, or negative pressure therapy. You can see a list of treatments we offer here
Here are six things you need to know about specialized wound care:
- If you have a wound anywhere on the body that hasn’t healed within 3-4 weeks (earlier if you have diabetes), ask your doctor to refer you to a wound care specialist. Don’t “tough it out” or try to heal the wound on your own. Patients can avoid many complications by consulting with a wound care physician early on.
- Inspect your feet daily and keep them clean. If you have pedicures, be sure everything used on your feet is thoroughly sanitized.
- Be aware of diabetic neuropathy. Many diabetics don’t feel pain in the legs and feet because high glucose levels over time can damage the nerves in the lower limbs. A chronic wound can remain undetected for several weeks, causing an infection to develop and rage out of control.
- Control blood glucose levels. Elevations in blood glucose reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection and can slow the body’s healing process. Keeping glucose levels under control helps prevent hardening of the arteries, narrowing of the blood vessels, and nerve damage.
- Learn about hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). If you’re a cancer patient suffering from the late effects of radiation treatment - even if it’s months or years later - ask your physician about HBOT. HBOT can help rejuvenate the skin and tissues by pumping oxygen-rich blood to damaged areas, encouraging healing.
- Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet/obesity can play a role in the development of chronic wounds and can negatively impact healing. Do everything you can to live a healthier lifestyle.
If you or someone you love is suffering from a non-healing wound, contact our team of experts. Consultation is available by appointment Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. by calling 314-205-6818. We work with referring physicians to evaluate and treat non-healing wounds as quickly as possible, before they become life-threatening conditions.
The Wound Care Center and Hyperbaric Medicine is located in St. Luke’s Desloge Outpatient Center, Building B at 111 St. Luke’s Center Drive, Chesterfield, MO 63017.