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Non-Healing Wounds

A wound that won't heal can be a constant source of pain and frustration. It also can be a serious medical problem for patients who do not get the treatment and support they need. MaineHealth providers can help you get better, so you can get back to the things in life that are important to you.

What is a non-healing wound?

A non-healing wound is a wound that doesn’t heal within five to eight weeks, even though you’ve been following your provider’s instructions to take care of it. This can be very serious, because it can become infected and lead to an illness or even the loss of a limb. A non-healing wound sometimes is called a chronic wound. There are many different types of non-healing wounds, but the most common is an ulcer.

Who is at risk for a non-healing wound?

It is very important to see your provider if you have a hard-to-heal wound. Many people are at risk for non-healing wounds. They include people with:

  • Diabetes, anemia, cancer and other long-term medical conditions.
  • Heart issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or varicose veins.
  • Immobility, such as being confined to a wheelchair or bed.
  • Unhealthy habits such as smoking, not eating a healthy diet or not being active.
  • A weak immune system from chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or medical conditions such as AIDS.
  • A history of ulcers.

Non-healing wound symptoms

Call your provider if you have a wound or ulcer and see any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain around the wound that doesn’t improve or seems to get worse.
  • Dark or blue color around the edges of the wound.
  • Wound that seems to be weeping, draining or leaking more.
  • Redness or swelling that spreads away from the wound.
  • The wound starts to smell bad.

Non-healing wound treatments

Wound treatments are based on the type and severity of the wound or ulcer. If you have a non-healing wound, your provider will discuss your options with you and help you decide the right treatment. Basic wound care treatment may include:

  • Topical wound medication and specialized dressings
  • Compression wrapping
  • Compression stockings
  • Patient education on self-care
  • Antibiotics
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Debridement, or removing unhealthy tissue
  • Ultrasound (heals using sound waves)
  • Negative pressure therapy (air is pulled from a closed dressing, which improves blood flow and draws out excess fluids from the wound)
  • Growth-factor therapy (help wound-healing cells to grow)
  • Surgery