Healing Methods for Persistent Wounds
When standard measures aren't enough to heal persistent or chronic wounds in people with diabetes, physicians may turn to these more advanced methods:
- Negative pressure therapy A sterile piece of open-cell foam is cut to size and packed into the wound, acting as a filter to keep out large particles (such as blood clots or dead tissue). The wound is covered with a clear, thin piece of polyurethane that creates an airtight seal. A pump is attached to draw fluid from the wound while simultaneously increasing blood flow to the area. The pump can be used at home after being programmed by a health care professional.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) During this procedure, the patient lies on a padded table that slides into a chamber, which is gradually pressurized with pure oxygen. The increased air pressure allows more oxygen to get to the body's damaged tissues, which accelerates healing. A 2010 study in Diabetes Care found that HBOT sped up healing time and reduced the number of amputations in people with diabetes and chronic foot ulcers, though a more recent study in the same journal has called those findings into question.
- Bio-engineered tissue Used when a patient's own skin is not capable of closing a wound sufficiently. Bio-engineered tissue is derived from human tissue, such as neonatal foreskin or cells from the placenta, and made into a graft that stimulates healing by releasing growth factors. A study in the International Wound Journal found that diabetic wounds treated with placenta skin cells healed more quickly than those receiving standard care. Scientists are currently experimenting with stem cells. Animal studies suggest that they promote healing of wounds, but this treatment is not yet ready for testing in humans.
From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Winter 2013