What is a Chronic Wound?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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A chronic wound is a wound that fails to heal as expected. If not properly addressed, a chronic wound can lead to severe medical complications, including loss of limbs or even death. If a patient has such a wound, he or she may be referred to a wound care specialist for treatment, although other medical professionals can also supervise treatment and recovery. It is important to treat chronic wounds promptly and aggressively.

The term “chronic wound” often evokes the image of a wound that refuses to heal for an extended period of time, and this is a common trait of chronic wounds. However, there are no specific time definitions on such wounds and a wound can be identified as chronic when it is relatively fresh. The more important characterization is a failure to heal or to move through the various stages of healing as anticipated. For example, if a wound does not start to knit and close within a few days, it can be a sign that it is developing into a chronic wound.


Some examples of chronic wounds include diabetic ulcers, venous ulcers, and pressure ulcers. These are most commonly seen in the elderly, people with diabetes in the case of diabetic ulcers, and people with conditions such as neuropathy. People who have a limited range of movement can also be at risk for chronic wounds, both because they can develop pressure sores which may ulcerate with time and because their circulation may be poor, making it challenging for wounds to heal properly.

When a chronic wound is identified, it needs to be carefully cleaned and the doctor needs to confirm that it is not a malignancy or another type of wound. Then, the patient is instructed in wound care and an aggressive wound care regimen is started. This usually includes regular dressing changes, monitoring of the wound, position changes to minimize pressure, and exercise recommendations. Patients may also be given special padding to limit pressure on the wound, along with antibiotic medications to fight off infection.

Chronic wounds are at increased risk of infection and inflammation. They can also grow, leading to tissue death and associated problems. Furthermore, some are quite painful, and pain management is recognized as an important aspect of the chronic wound care process. Failure to adequately address pain can cause a decline in quality of life for the patient, and may stress the patient's body, making it harder to heal.


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Post 1

My sister is diabetic, has stage 4 cancer and has, according to the doctor, a stage 4 bed sore on her lower back.

She also had an operation on her stomach (she is in the hospital) and her bed is always wet from the bed sore (they say they can only clean her every second day). We go to the hospital every day to clean her. What can we use to speed up the healing?

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