The Role of Vascular Surgeons in Wound Care

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Depending on their type and severity, wounds typically take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. If you have ever experienced a wound that healed too slowly, you know how frustrating it can be. Various factors, including underlying vascular conditions or lifestyle choices, can cause chronic wounds that do not heal. Chronic wounds affect more than seven million people in the United States. 

These non-healing wounds have implications beyond surface-level concerns, as they can significantly impact the overall quality of life for those affected. However, specialized expertise is often required to manage these wounds effectively.

At the Ellison Vein Institute, we understand the complexities of wound care and the important role vascular surgeons play in promoting healing and preventing complications. Discover how our team can help you achieve optimal healing and vascular health.

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What is a Vascular Surgeon?

Vascular surgeons are highly specialized medical professionals who understand the intricate network of the human body's veins, arteries, and lymphatic circulation. 

Their expertise is crucial to the body's proper functioning and healing processes. With their extensive knowledge of the human body, vascular surgeons are mainly focused on managing arterial and venous disease which can help optimize wound healing. They can also provide wound care or collaborate with other providers or specialists to provide adequate wound care. They understand the severe consequences of inadequate wound treatment and are skilled in performing safe and effective procedures to ensure proper wound healing.

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What is the Correlation Between Wound Care and Vascular Health?

The relationship between wound care and vascular health is significant and should be noticed. The reason behind this correlation is that adequate blood flow plays an essential role in the healing process of wounds. It ensures that the affected area receives enough oxygen and nutrients while removing waste products. 

Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from vascular conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD) may experience reduced blood flow, leading to the development of chronic wounds that may take much longer to heal or may not heal at all. Therefore, taking care of one's vascular health, especially if prone to wound development, is important to ensure one recovers quickly and efficiently.

How Does a Vascular Specialist Perform Wound Care?

A vascular specialist assesses the type of wound and then decides on the most appropriate treatment. After conducting diagnostic tests, the provider chooses the best approach. While several surgical techniques can aid healing, non-surgical options are available and customized for each case. 

Usually, cleaning and dressing the wound is enough to heal naturally. However, for chronic wounds that are slow to heal, vascular specialists might use the following:

  • Compression therapy, such as stockings or bandages, to treat lower extremity swelling or venous insufficiency.
  • Wound debridement is a minor surgical procedure that removes non-living tissue from the wound or surrounding the wound
  • Various different dressings aid in the healing of ulcers and antibiotics may be used to treat infection if needed.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases oxygen concentration and enhances blood supply to the wound area.
  • Vacuum-assisted closure exposes the wound to continuous suction, promoting healing.
  • Skin grafts or skin substitute grafts are used to promote healing as well.
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How Fast Should Wounds Heal?

Wounds generally heal in 4 to 6 weeks. Chronic wounds fail to heal within this timeframe, and many factors can lead to impaired healing. 

Some factors include:

  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Hypoxia
  • Bacterial colonization
  • Ischemia
  • Reperfusion injury
  • Altered cellular response
  • Collagen synthesis defects

When Should You See a Doctor About an Unhealed Wound?

If you have a wound that is not healing, it is important to seek medical attention promptly, regardless of your assumptions about the cause. If you notice any concerning signs, such as a foul odor coming from the wound, dark circles around the wound edges, worsening pain at the wound site, swelling, or drainage, it is advisable to consult a health care provider.

You should trust your instincts when it comes to seeing a health care provider. If you feel something is wrong with the wound or a considerable amount of time has passed since you first noticed it, scheduling an appointment is imperative. 

Your health care provider can evaluate and determine the underlying cause of the non-healing wound and develop a tailored treatment plan accordingly.

Treating Non-Healing Chronic Wounds

The treatment for a non-healing wound varies depending on its root cause. If peripheral artery disease (PAD) is identified as the source, specific treatments to optimize blood flow will be recommended which may assist in wound healing and prevent recurrence. If venous insufficiency is identified as the source, treatments may include venous ablations or sclerotherapy to correct this. 

Additionally, your provider may provide self-care strategies to prevent new wounds and ensure timely treatment of any emerging issues.

Your treatment strategy should not only focus on healing the existing wound but also on preventing future occurrences.

PAD-Specific Treatments for Wounds

  • Medications: Ensuring adequate treatment of risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes is crucial in the management of PAD. If needed, medications to promote smoking cessation may be considered. Medications specifically to improve blood flow or blood thinners may also be given. These can aid in alleviating the symptoms of PAD and promote wound healing by ensuring an adequate blood supply to the affected area. 
  • Angioplasty and Stent Placement: For certain patients, procedures to reopen narrowed arteries, such as angioplasty or stent placement, might be necessary. These interventions can restore blood flow to the affected limbs, significantly improving wound healing.
  • Bypass Surgery: In severe cases, bypass surgery may be required to divert blood flow around blocked arteries. This can be critical in ensuring blood reaches the wound site to facilitate healing.

Self-Care Strategies for Chronic Wounds 

Beyond medical treatments, self-care helps manage slow healing wounds and prevent new ones from occurring. Here are several strategies that your vascular surgeon may recommend:

  • Regular Inspections: Daily checks of your feet and legs for any signs of wounds, infections, or changes in skin color and temperature can help catch problems early before they escalate.
  • Proper Nutrition: A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is vital for wound healing. Nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, and protein are critical in the body’s ability to repair itself.
  • Smoking Cessation: Smoking can significantly impair circulation and hinder the healing process. Quitting smoking is one of the most impactful steps to improve wound healing and overall vascular health.
  • Exercise: Regular, gentle exercise can improve circulation and promote wound healing. However, it's important to consult your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate and safe exercise for your condition.
  • Footwear and Skin Care: Wearing properly fitting shoes and keeping the skin moisturized can help prevent skin breakdown and the development of new wounds.

Next Steps for Your Vascular Health 

You should see a health care provider right away if you have a slow to heal wound. Don't let chronic wounds limit your life. Schedule an appointment at Ellison Vein Institute for a consultation with our board certified wound care provider, Kristin Marshall, DNP, along with a full vascular workup. 

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