It’s estimated that 6.5 million people suffer from chronic wounds in the United States, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. As the population ages, obesity rates increase, and diabetes cases climb, chronic wound cases are also expected to rise.
At RiverView Health, a dynamic team of providers and therapists work to improve the lives of those suffering from chronic wounds. One of those team members is Physical Therapist Brittni Johnson. Johnson has worked at RiverView for two years, primarily in Home Care, with some time also spent in the Rehab Services Department. Johnson provides wound care in the outpatient setting. She works closely with Occupational Therapist Michelle Moen on lymphedema and compression wrappings to improve wound healing and outcomes.
“As a physical therapist, wound care is within my scope of practice and has always been a fascination of mine,’’ Johnson shared. “RiverView has allowed me to take the reigns on providing wound care services to our community, both in Home Care and the outpatient setting.’’
Acute or Chronic
Depending on the healing time, a wound is classified as acute or chronic. Acute wounds heal without any complications in a predicted amount of time. Chronic wounds take a relatively long time to heal with some complications. A chronic wound is a wound that has failed to progress through a normal, orderly sequence of repair in a timely manner. Although there is no clear consensus on the duration of a chronic wound, a range of four weeks to three months has been used to define the term “chronic.’’
The impact of chronic wounds on the health and quality of life of those who suffer from them is immeasurable. Patients with chronic wounds may experience chronic pain, loss of function and mobility, increased social stress and isolation, depression and anxiety, prolonged hospitalization, increased financial burden, and increased morbidity and mortality.
The most common chronic wounds include ulcers, infectious wounds, ischemic wounds, surgical wounds, and wounds from radiation poisoning.
Symposium on Advanced Wound Care
Johnson recently attended the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care to increase her knowledge of treatment options. The symposium served as a forum to connect the entire wound care team, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, researchers, scientists, podiatrists, and dietitians. Leading experts in wound care presented at the symposium to educate Johnson and others on how to provide better care for better outcomes.
“There is no other wound care conference that offers the level of education, advanced state-of-the-art clinical reviews, and emerging research findings,’’ Johnson stated. “The knowledge gained during the symposium will allow me to better serve my current and future wound care patients.’’
As a physical therapist, Johnson is on the front lines of wound management. She treats patients during the most critical wound care and healing stages with the most current and advanced wound care protocols.
Johnson lists the following as highly important in dealing with wounds:
- Cleansing wounds and peri-wounds (tissue surrounding the wound)
- Removal of dead and non-viable tissues
- Choosing a dressing selection to fit the patient and goals of treatment
- Creating a treatment plan that is financially reasonable for the patient
- Managing edema (swelling) to improve the wound healing environment
- Participating in interdisciplinary communication between providers, nurses, financial services, dietitians, and physical and occupational therapy
- Establishing different treatment plans for patients dealing with certain wounds; including venous ulcers, arterial ulcers, pressure ulcers, diabetic ulcers, and post-surgical wounds
- Addressing wounds earlier vs. later when they are in a chronic state and more difficult to heal
- Treating the entire patient - not just the wound; learning how the wound came about, how to prevent future wounds, etc.
According to Johnson, educating the patient, caregivers, and/or family members regarding wound care and dressing changes is also vital. The best way to reduce the chance of infection or keep new wounds from occurring is to keep the wound moist, clean, and protected, in order to promote an optimal healing environment. Following your provider’s orders will also greatly improve your condition.
If you are dealing with a chronic wound or have questions about wound management services available at RiverView, talk to your primary care provider or call Rehab Services at 281.9463.
Pictured, top: Brittni Johnson visits with a wound care patient at RiverView Health. Pictured above: Johnson with some of the supplies for wound care.