New research has revealed a promising treatment for wounds that are prevalent in long-term care.

There is no denying the sheer impact that pressure ulcers frequently experienced by patients of long-term care facilities have on the medical industry as a whole. Not only do these sores cost U.S. healthcare upwards of $11.6 billion annually, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, but these injuries also result in thousands of deaths.

Fortunately, early identification coupled with a sustained treatment regimen can lead to these pressure ulcers being treated quickly and effectively. Thanks to recent innovations, including mirror therapy and vacuum-assisted closures, doctors have an increasingly diverse set of tools at their disposal. Today, the innovation surges on with an exciting new breakthrough from researchers at Duke University.

A Topical Approach

As part of a recent study in the journal Ostomy Wound Management, the Duke team used topical insulin to treat chronic pressure ulcers. Of course, this isn’t the first research to indicate the effectiveness of insulin in the wound healing process. During a 2006 conference for the American Society for Cell Biology, a group of presenters outlined just how insulin can aid wound care. Specifically, it helped increase activity of the keratinocytes, those cells primarily responsible for tissue regrowth after an injury. Meanwhile, a 2012 study in the journal Wound Repair Regeneration noted that insulin’s role may have to do with how it regulates the wound inflammatory response.

For their experiments, the Duke scientists focused primarily on severe pressure ulcers, or those given a grade of at least three. Per Patient.info, this level is when the ulcer has become a full thickness injury, with damage below the tissue layers. Patients’ ulcers were sprayed with the topical insulin, at which time the wounds were covered with sterile gauze. After one week of daily treatments, patients experienced a 35% decrease in the mean wound area; that’s compared to just 4% for the control group.

Not only that, but none of the patients experienced notable increases in their blood glucose levels. As HCPLive explained, most doctors are hesitant to use insulin products in these situations because it can elevate glucose and cause hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar.

In the future, the scientists hope to expand upon their research, using a larger pool of patients and other forms of chronic wounds. Insulin could one day become a regular wound care product for ulcers, right alongside the likes of silver-impregnated gauze and hydrogels.

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