Extrinsic Factors Affecting Wound Healing
From Report #S251, “Worldwide Wound Management, Forecast to 2024: Established and Emerging Products, Technologies and Markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Rest of World.”
Extrinsic factors affecting wound healing include:
Desiccation and maceration
Mechanical stress factors include pressure, shear, and friction. Pressure can result from immobility, such as experienced by a bed- or chair-bound patient, or local pressures generated by a cast or poorly fitting shoe on a diabetic foot. When pressure is applied to an area for sufficient time and duration, blood flow to the area is compromised and healing cannot take place. Shear forces may occlude blood vessels, and disrupt or damage granulation tissue. Friction wears away newly formed epithelium or granulation tissue and may return the wound to the inflammatory phase.
Debris, such as necrotic tissue or foreign material, must be removed from the wound site in order to allow the wound to progress from the inflammatory stage to the proliferative stage of healing. Necrotic debris includes eschar and slough. The removal of necrotic tissue is called debridement and may be accomplished by mechanical, chemical, autolytic, or surgical means. Foreign material may include sutures, dressing residues, fibers shed by dressings, and foreign material which were introduced during the wounding process, such as dirt or glass.
Temperature controls the rate of chemical and enzymatic processes occurring within the wound and the metabolism of cells and tissue engaged in the repair process. Frequent dressing changes or wound cleansing with room temperature solutions may reduce wound temperature, often requiring several hours for recovery to physiological levels. Thus, wound dressings that promote a “cooling” effect, while they may help to decrease pain, may not support wound repair.
Desiccation of the wound surface removes the physiological fluids that support wound healing activity. Dry wounds are more painful, itchy, and produce scab material in an attempt to reduce fluid loss. Cell proliferation, leukocyte activity, wound contraction, and revascularization are all reduced in a dry environment. Epithelialization is drastically slowed in the presence of scab tissue that forces epithelial cells to burrow rather than freely migrate over granulation tissue. Advanced wound dressings provide protection against desiccation.
Maceration resulting from prolonged exposure to moisture may occur from incontinence, sweat accumulation, or excess exudates. Maceration can lead to enlargement of the wound, increased susceptibility to mechanical forces, and infection. Advanced wound products are designed to remove sources of moisture, manage wound exudates, and protect skin at the edges of the wound from exposure to exudates, incontinence, or perspiration.
Infection at the wound site will ensure that the healing process remains in the inflammatory phase. Pathogenic microbes in the wound compete with macrophages and fibroblasts for limited resources and may cause further necrosis in the wound bed. Serious wound infection can lead to sepsis and death. While all ulcers are considered contaminated, the diagnosis of infection is made when the wound culture demonstrates bacterial counts in excess of 105 microorganisms per gram of tissue. The clinical signs of wound infection are erythema, heat, local swelling, and pain.
Chemical stress is often applied to the wound through the use of antiseptics and cleansing agents. Routine, prolonged use of iodine, peroxide, chlorhexidine, alcohol, and acetic acid has been shown to damage cells and tissue involved in wound repair. Their use is now primarily limited to those wounds and circumstances when infection risk is high. The use of such products is rapidly discontinued in favor of using less cytotoxic agents, such as saline and nonionic surfactants.
Medication may have significant effects on the phases of wound healing. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce the inflammatory response necessary to prepare the wound bed for granulation. Chemotherapeutic agents affect the function of normal cells as well as their target tumor tissue; their effects include reduction in the inflammatory response, suppression of protein synthesis, and inhibition of cell reproduction. Immunosuppressive drugs reduce WBC counts, reducing inflammatory activities and increasing the risk of wound infection.
Other extrinsic factors that may affect wound healing include alcohol abuse, smoking, and radiation therapy. Alcohol abuse and smoking interfere with body’s defense system, and side effects from radiation treatments include specific disruptions to the immune system, including suppression of leukocyte production that increases the risk of infection in ulcers. Radiation for treatment of cancer causes secondary complications to the skin and underlying tissue. Early signs of radiation side effects include acute inflammation, exudation, and scabbing. Later signs, which may appear four to six months after radiation, include woody, fibrous, and edematous skin. Advanced radiated skin appearances can include avascular tissue and ulcerations in the circumscribed area of the original radiation. The radiated wound may not become evident until as long as 10-20 years after the end of therapy.
Source: “Wound Management to 2024”, Report #S251.