An infrared camera has been used to diagnose early stage chronic wounds.
Chronic wounds pose an especially complex challenge for most wound care experts. For whatever reasons – be it due to infection or patient-specific health issues – these wounds won’t heal properly. According to a 2015 report published in the journal Advanced Wound Care, chronic foot and leg ulcers affect between 2.4 and 4.5 million people in the U.S. alone. And because these wounds can stay exposed for months at a time, there is a distinct risk of subsequent infection or tissue death.
Of course, chronic wounds are often most notorious for being rather difficult to identify in the first place. In fact, according to a 2014 report published in the journal Disease Models & Mechanisms, early detection is cited as the most important tool in properly treating serious chronic wounds. In the near future, physicians have may another equally powerful asset. Researchers from Italy’s University of Pisa have used an infrared camera to assess chronic wounds in their earliest stages.
Red hot development
The results of this months-long study were published in the journal Wounds. For the experiment, the research team made up of fellows from the university’s podiatry and plastic surgery departments studied 18 patients who had a combined total of 24 chronic wounds. To begin, each wound bed and the nearby skin were assessed and then photographed with an infrared camera. A second researcher, who hadn’t been informed of the temperature readings, then scored the wounds based on a scale of 0 to 16. Several factors influenced the final score, including how much exudate was in the wound and the health of the healing edges.
So, what did the team find? Generally speaking, and there were some instances of abnormal or outlying data, the wound bed score and the temperatures from the camera matched up fairly well in comparison. That is to say, temperature is just as effective of a way to determine the healing rate of a wound. In fact, it may be more direct and linear, both in its overall speed and efficiency. The research team even found an optimal temperature for proper wound healing: 91 degrees Fahrenheit. The research suggested that intervention on or before that temperature reading will have the most optimal results.
A matter of heat
In its study, the Italian team noted that additional research into the importance of temperature is needed as it relates to treatment adjustments or preventing bacterial spread.
Perhaps that’s because, up until this study, so much of the literature has suggested that higher wound bed temperatures can actually be an indicator of infection. In 2014, the Infectious Diseases Society of America released new guidelines into the proper treatment protocols for surgical site infections. The IDSA noted that intervention is usually required if the patient’s temperature is higher than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Indeed, other outlets have noted that cooler temperatures are generally better for wounds. According to MedMarket Diligence blog, room temperature dressing solutions can reduce overall wound temperature. The company also suggested that any dressing promoting a cooling effect can actively improve wound repair.
Of course, there is still other data supporting the adverse effects of cooler temperatures. As the Wound Care Education Institute pointed out, cooling can lead to an increased risk of infection. That’s because cooler temperatures lead to vasoconstriction, which cuts off the body’s supply of available oxygen. Without that crucial element, neutrophils cells can’t properly fight off infection.
If nothing else, both the Italian study and existing literature demonstrate how important a role temperature plays in diagnosing and treating serious chronic wounds. In the future, there may be even more studies to prove whether hot or cold temperatures are ultimately better for a successful wound healing process.
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