What are non-healing wounds?

Non-healing wounds are wounds (cuts, scrapes, scratches, sores, or ulcers) that have not improved in four weeks and have not healed in six to eight weeks. They are also called chronic wounds.

When a wound does not heal properly, it can cause pain, limit mobility, and decrease a person's quality of life. An open wound also leaves a person vulnerable to infection, which can be serious – even limb-threatening – if left untreated.

Causes and risk factors for non-healing wounds

Although most wounds heal on their own, any wound has the potential to become a non-healing wound. Animal bites, surgical incisions, bed sores (pressure ulcers), traumatic wounds, radiation injuries, and diabetic foot ulcers are just a few examples.

Some people are more likely to develop a non-healing wound because of an existing medical condition. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Circulation problems, including peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or chronic venous insufficiency
  • Blockage in the veins caused by a clot (vascular obstruction)
  • Kidney failure
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Nutritional deficiency

Other risk factors for non-healing wounds include age, stress, tobacco use, alcohol use, obesity, and certain medications.

Non-healing wounds are most common in the legs, ankles and feet. For people who cannot move around, non-healing wounds also tend to occur around the hips and thighs.

Signs and symptoms of non-healing wounds

Every wound is different, but non-healing wounds share some common signs. If you have had a wound for four weeks or longer, and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please make an appointment for a consultation at the Wound Healing Center by calling 1-855-866-HEAL or 410-225-8600.

  • Pain that does not go away
  • Increasing pain at the wound site
  • Redness, swelling or warmth around the wound
  • Redness, swelling or warmth that spreads out from the wound
  • Increased fluid oozing from the wound
  • Color changes near the wound's edges, especially if it looks dark or bluish
  • A foul smell coming from the wound

Treatment benefits

The goal of treatment is to make it easier for the body's natural healing process to occur. For example, removing dead tissue from the edges of a wound allows the body to resume the healing process that had been blocked by the dead tissue. In other cases, the wound may need a skin graft or hyperbaric oxygen therapy to support the body's healing process.

Another benefit of treatment is that it helps reduce the chance of serious complications. For patients with diabetes, developing a wound on the foot (called a diabetic foot ulcer) makes it much more likely that amputation will become necessary later on. If foot wounds are treated early, however, they can heal in many cases.

Non-healing wounds can be caused by infection, or they can develop an infection. Avoiding or treating infection is a key benefit of wound care treatment. If an infection is left untreated, it can cause life-threatening complications, including sepsis, which occurs when the body reacts to an infection by flooding the bloodstream with toxins. Sepsis can be life-threatening.

Learn more about the Wound Healing Center's Services.

Why choose the Wound Healing Center at UMMC Midtown

The Wound Healing Center offers a multidisciplinary, patient-centered approach toward advanced wound care. In other words, we treat both the wound and any underlying medical or lifestyle factors that have contributed to the wound's slow healing.

We bring together vascular surgeons, infectious disease physicians, family medicine practitioners, podiatrists, and specialized wound care nurses to deliver coordinated care. Each patient is assigned a dedicated physician and nurse case manager, so patients always know whom to call with questions about their care. By working together, we can customize the best treatment plan for each individual.

Take a look at some of our Patient Stories to see how we're changing lives every day. Then call the Wound Healing Center to make an appointment for a consultation: 1-855-866-HEAL or 410-225-8600.