What is a Non-Healing Surgical Wound?

By January 11, 2019Wound Care
Non-Healing Surgical Wound Reading Time: 3 minutes

A non-healing surgical wound is one that still has not healed after four weeks. Usually, there is some underlying medical condition that causes a delay in healing that may have gone unnoticed.

A surgical wound is an incision or cut in the skin made by a scalpel or other medical instrument during surgery. A wound can also be a drain placed during an operation. Sometimes wounds are left open to heal, but usually, they are sutured closed. Proper wound care practices are critical to a healthy healing process after surgery.

Signs That A Wound Is Non-Healing

Here are some signs to look for that a wound is not healing.

  1. Odor

    A non-healing wound has a unique odor that emanates when tissues start to break down. People often describe it as foul smelling, but it’s vital to understand that certain infections also emit smells. The Proteus strand infection is associated with the smell of ammonia while pseudomonas bacteria has a sweet odor.

  2. Pain

    While all wounds have a certain level of discomfort, too much pain that worsens over time can signal a chronic wound that’s not healing. If your pain worsens even on over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, it may be a sign of a non-healing wound.

  3. Discharge and Swelling

    Wounds that aren’t healing usually swell and become red. This may worsen over time. Discharge from a surgical wound is normal, but if it thickens and turns yellowish, that may indicate that a wound is not healing correctly.

  4. Healing Time

    Usually, the best indicator that your wound isn’t healing properly, is that it hasn’t significantly improved within 30 days. If your wound has not healed well after 30 days, an underlying condition may be causing delays in healing. You should seek medical attention immediately, as many conditions delaying the healing of wounds could be life-threatening.

    Depending on the patient and type of wound, a doctor may extend this timeframe. It’s best to seek a physician’s advice if the delay is significant.

  5. Properly Healing Wounds

    Recognizing proper wound healing is essential. Scabs are common for deeper cuts and scrapes. As new tissue forms, the wound should shrink. Observing your wound, and the progression of healing helps prevent any complications.

There Are Five Primary Reasons Behind A Non-Healing Wound

There are several reasons why wounds don’t heal.

  1. Edema

    Edema is fluid that gathers under the skin, fatty tissue, or dermis. Frequently, it occurs in your lower extremities. Fluid often builds up as the result of venous insufficiency and may further develop into ulcers or sores.

  2. Poor Circulation

    Wounds heal better with efficient circulatory systems. Two main circulatory problems that hinder the healing process are venous insufficiency and arterial insufficiency. Venous insufficiency happens when the body’s fluids and blood can’t return through the veins. The breakdown of the valves within the veins allows blood to backflow in this circulatory disorder. This allows fluids and blood to leak into the body’s lower extremities.

    Arterial insufficiency occurs when blood flow through the arteries is insufficient for wound healing. Peripheral Atherosclerosis Disease is a common cause of arterial insufficiency.

  3. Infection

    Infection is the increase of fungus, bacteria, or virus near a wound site. This proliferation obstructs proper wound healing. Complicated wounds with infections are typically hard to resolve, especially if the infection begins in or near a bone.

  4. Repeated Wound Trauma

    If a wound incurs constant pressure or bumps, it can take significantly longer to heal. The healing process may even completely stop. This is usually seen in patients that have spinal cord injuries or paraplegic patients who can’t feel their extremities.

  5. Malnutrition

    Another common cause that inhibits wound healing is protein malnutrition. The body must have protein to create new tissue. This cause of delay in wound healing is the most overlooked. The whole process halts if the malnutrition is not corrected no matter what flaps, debriding agents, or grafts are used to assist healing.

It is vital to your overall health to pay attention to the healing process for any wounds that you may have. Non-healing wounds are often life-threatening and need immediate treatment for the underlying problem. If you have any doubts about the healing of your wound, contacting a physician for advice is the most critical step that you can take.