In Part I of our short series on wound types and wound healing, we looked at the two main types of wounds, open and closed, and the main categories of open wounds.
Since closed wounds are not treated using wound vacs – or negative pressure wound therapy – we’ll focus in this article on the types of complications that can occur with open wounds.
Open Wound Complications
In open wounds, the skin is broken, cut or split in some way. This leaves the underlying tissue – and potentially bone, muscle and organs – open to the air, which can result in problems with overall healing.
Most small, minor wounds can be treated at home by washing the area carefully with soap and water, using a mild disinfectant to remove dirt and debris, and applying a sterile dressing or bandage to cover the area. Depending on the cause and severity, many small wounds will heal on their own in a few days or weeks.
However, even small wounds can develop serious problems. Let’s take a look at some signs of open wound complications.
Many open wounds happen due to accidents and are caused by objects that puncture or break the skin, such as metal nails or edges, knives, broken glass, teeth, wooden splinters, etc. These objects are often dirty and can carry bacteria or other organisms that get under the skin and enter the surrounding blood or tissue.
However, it’s possible for infection to occur in any open wounds, including surgical incisions.
If an open wound becomes infected, symptoms can include:
· Redness, red streaks or swelling – Initially, there may be some redness and swelling around the opening of the wound, which is normal, but if the color worsens, streaks develop (also known as lymphangitis), or swelling increases, it usually means that infection is present.
· Fluid, pus or draining from the wound – Again, it’s normal to have some clear or slightly yellow drainage, especially from surgical wounds, but if the color turns cloudy, greenish or dark, or if the area has a strong odor, this indicates a problem.
· Heat or warmth – If infection is present, the body will send additional blood cells to the surrounding area to help fight it. This can make the skin feel warm.
· Increased pain – There is often mild to severe pain at a wound site when an injury, accident or surgery takes place. However, this pain should decrease over time. Sudden or worsening pain at the site usually indicates a problem.
· Feeling sluggish, tired or feverish – A fever of over 100° for several hours, or an ongoing feeling of malaise, usually indicates that the body is trying to fight off infection.
In addition, if a wound is not healing and improving over time, this usually indicates that there may be infection present.
Severe infections in an open wound can result in problems such as lockjaw (caused by tetanus bacteria), gangrene (caused by a variety of bacteria, including Clostridium and Streptococcus), and sepsis.
Wound closing and healing
To heal properly, open wounds need just the right amount of moisture and to be protected from infection while closing.
Small wounds can be covered or closed with small adhesive strips or sterile bandages. Larger wounds, however, may require stitches, staples or other treatments to help them close and to prevent infection. Closing the wound brings separated tissue together to promote the healing process.
When treating complex open wounds, there are a variety of treatments that may be used to help the area heal. In the final post of our short series on wound types and healing, we’ll take a look at how negative pressure (NPWT) can be used to help treat and close complex open wounds.
Interested in learning more about wound vacs and NPWT? Contact The Wound Vac Company today.
Note: Important material for this article came from woundcarecenters.org.