Wound care in venous ulcers

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Wound dressings: ulcer dressings should create and maintain a moist environment on the ulcer surface. It has been shown that in an ulcer with a hard crust and desiccated bed, the healing process is significantly slowed and sometimes completely blocked so favouring infection, inflammation and pain. In contrast a moist environment promotes autolytic debridement, angiogenesis and the more rapid formation of granulation tissue, favours keratinocytes migration and accelerates healing of wounds. Apart from these common characteristics, wound dressings are completely different in other aspects and must be used according to the ulcer stage. In necrotic ulcers, autolytic debridement by means of hydrogel and hydrocolloids or with enzymatic paste is preferred. In case of largely exuding wounds alginate or hydrofibre are indicated. When bleeding occurs alginate is indicated due to its haemostatic power. Where ulcers are covered by granulation tissue, polyurethane foams are preferred. When infection coexists antiseptics are necessary: dressing containing silver or iodine with large antibacterial spectrum have proved to be very effective. In the epithelization stage polyurethane films or membranes, thin hydrocolloids or collagen based dressings are very useful to favour advancement of the healing wound edge. Despite these considerations, a Cochrane review failed to find advantages for any dressing type compared with low-adherent dressings applied beneath compression. Surgical debridement and grafting of wounds, negative wound pressure treatment: surgical and hydrosurgical debridement are indicated in large, necrotic and infected wounds as these treatments are able to get rid of necrotic, infected tissue very quickly in a single surgical session, thereby significantly accelerating wound bed preparation and healing time. Negative wound pressure treatment creating a negative pressure on ulcer bed is able to favour granulation tissue and shorten healing time. In case of hard-to-heal leg ulcers such as large, deep, infected and long-lasting venous ulcers, sharp debridement and skin grafting may favour and shorten ulcer healing.

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