Chronic Wounds Affect 6.5 Million in U.S.
By Holly Daniels Nelson
Apr 25, 2017
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Known as the silent epidemic, chronic wounds, or wounds that are slow to heal currently affect 6.5 million people in the U.S. and the numbers will likely increase, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
If untreated, chronic wounds can lead to loss of limbs or even death. This epidemic is largely unknown because individuals with slow-healing wounds often have another chronic condition that can lead to morbidity.
Wounds that are slow to heal are a problem worldwide: 1 to 2 percent of the total population are projected to experience a chronic wound during their lifetime in developed countries.
An aging population and increases in diabetes and obesity are contributing factors to rising need for wound care. Chronic wounds are increasing for several reasons, including a sharp rise in the prevalence of obesity (which is strongly associated with the development of diabetes), an aging population, and a rapidly expanding need for wound care services for veterans.
“A good wound clinic should have the technology and equipment medically engineered to evaluate wounds and help them heal better and faster, to provide a better quality of life for patients,” says Bill Tettelbach, MD, medical director for Wound Care Services and Hyperbaric Medicine at Intermountain Healthcare. “Wound clinics and caregivers have the capacity to save limbs and save lives.”
A five-year study reported by Medscape (“Wound Care Outcomes and Associated Cost Among Patients Treated in U.S. Outpatient Wound Centers”) shows the impact of wound care clinics. Out of 5,240 wound patients treated over five years at U.S. outpatient wound centers, 66.8 percent were healed by their final visit, according to data from the U.S. Wound Registry from 2005–2010. More details are at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/758216_4.
Dr. Tettelbach says wound clinics treat the following common conditions:
Specialized treatments available at wound clinics typically use optimal temperature, moisture, and pressure on wounds to promote healing.
Patients and their home caregivers are usually taught to reduce the chance of infection or keep new wounds from occurring by learning how to keep the wound dry, clean, and intact, and to promote blood flow. They learn how to change bandages and dressings, identify indicators of possible infection, and protect wounds from further injury. The biggest key to successful wound healing is patient compliance with their care providers’ recommendations.
For more information, https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/wound-care/.