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Published on June 19, 2017

man receiving care in the ER for his burn

Wound Healing Awareness Can Save Limbs – and Lives

For most of us, a wound is a temporary setback, something we clean up, treat with the appropriate bandage and keep an eye on as it heals.

You might not realize it, but approximately every 30 seconds in the United States, a person suffering from a diabetic wound ends up having an limb amputated. The American Academy of Wound Management and Avera certified wound specialists recognize June, which is Wound Healing Awareness Month, to help raise recognition of the services available in professional wound care.

People who face chronic wounds face many challenges, the work of certified wound specialists like Shelly Monnens, APRN-BC, can help them. Monnens helps people who are dealing with chronic wounds and she does so at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

“Most people do not realize there are a unique set of specialty services that can provide patients suffering with wounds relief and help,” Monnens said. “Specialized treatments include debridement, total contact casting and compression, but there are many others.”

She said compression, chemical cauterization, offloading, selection of appropriate dressings, pain management and negative pressure wound therapy also are used to help those who suffer.

“Patient education is our priority, as many people who face wound issues may not realize the wide-spread nature of possible treatments,” she said. “Certified Wound Specialists bring their abilities to evaluate, treat and diagnose wounds with complex issues, such as comorbidity, which when there are two diseases or conditions present in a patient.”

She works to develop treatment plans, administer tests, prescribe medications, and she is able to help patients get to additional resources including hyperbaric oxygen and diabetic education when it’s needed.

“We can also apply cellular tissue products or advanced wound care technologies in our work,” said Monnens. “There are so many approaches and for people who face these sorts of wounds, we look at all possible methods that may be their best course of action.”

Certified wound specialist Nicolle Samuels, MSPT, works from Hegg Health Center Avera in Rock Valley, Iowa. Like Monnens, she often works with smaller, rural hospitals and assists the health care professionals there as they provide their own unique interventions.

“Much of our work is as a team, so the patient has a thorough evidence-based treatment plan,” she said. “That could include care coordination and collaboration with a wide range of physicians including surgeons, infectious disease and vascular doctors, as well as physical therapists, orthopedic and internal medicine physicians as well as general practitioners.”

Both Monnens and Samuels provide telemedicine consultation services for many people across the five-state area where Avera has locations.

“We’ll often look at complex wounds and develop treatment plans, but more often we work collaboratively with your provider and look to find the additional medical tests or medications that may be needed,” she said. “Having a physical therapy background allows me to consider and incorporate interventions for the whole body, including mobility and body positioning, gait training and orthotics.”

Samuels said other tools are available and put to use, too, including ultrasound, electrical stimulation and laser treatments as well as pneumatic compression and light therapies.

“Each can have a key part in wound healing, and since every patient is unique, so too is each wound they face,” said Samuels. “We use an entire care team to help you or your loved one who face this sort of challenge. We all have a hand in treating the whole patient, not just the hole in the patient.”

Here are some fast facts to help you better understand Wound Healing Awareness Month:

  • One in 49 Americans has a chronic ulcer (6.5 million people and growing due to age, obesity, and diabetes.)
  • In about 62 percent of all amputee situations, the person who loses the limb will die within five years.
  • $50 billion is spent annually on managing ulcers.
  • The diabetic foot ulcer five-year mortality rate is higher than all types of cancer except lung and pancreatic.
  • The cost of diabetic foot ulcers is greater than that of the five most costly forms of cancer.
  • Diabetic foot ulceration is the most common complication seen in patients with diabetes and may be as high as 25 percent of all patients; it is the most critical risk factor for lower extremity amputation.
  • The rate at which people experience new wounds is greater than the incidence of cancer that develops each year in the United States; it’s estimated that 2.8-5.1 million pressure injuries, venous and diabetic foot ulcers begin each year, compared to 1.5 million new cases of cancer.
  • Approximately 6.5 million patients have a pressure, venous or diabetic foot ulcer in the United States; that’s approximately 2 percent of the entire population. These wounds hold annual estimated costs of $38 billion, $11 billion and $3 billion, respectively.
  • The prevalence of chronic venous ulcers in the general population is 1 percent compared to 45 percent in the population greater than 65 years of age. As many as 33 percent of patients treated for venous leg ulcers (VLU’s) are estimated to have the ulcers return four or more times.
  • In the United States health care institutions, an estimated 2.5 million patients will develop pressure injuries with an associated mortality rate of 60,000 deaths.

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