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What leads a doctor to specialize in wound care? What type specialists would work in this field?

Doctors who specialize in wound care include vascular surgeons, plastic surgeons, general surgeons and dermatologists. Wound care specialists usually take care of skin and subcutaneous tissue wounds, such as:

Skin ulcers, due to

  • insufficient blood flow (ischemia) to the legs (arterial/ischemic ulcers)
  • insufficient outflow of fluids from the legs (venous stasis ulcers)
  • pressure, such as in an incapacitated, bed-bound person who is not turned frequently enough (decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers)
  • ulcers in diabetics due to loss of sensation/neuropathy, usually on the feet (neurotrophic ulcers). Similar ulcers can be seen in anyone who has impaired sensation in the feet.
  • ulcers on the skin caused by other medical conditions such as lupus, scleroderma and others.
Arterial or ischemic ulcer on the foot of a diabetic smoker (photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

Arterial or ischemic ulcer on the foot of a diabetic smoker (photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

Venous stasis ulcer on the leg, due to chronic leg swelling

Venous stasis ulcer on the leg due to chronic leg swelling

Here is a page from the Cleveland Clinic website on lower extremity ulcers.

Wound care specialists also take care of various ostomies (an ostomy is a surgically created opening in the body for supplying nutrition or disposing of waste), such as gastrostomy or colostomy.

Patients with lymphedema (lymphatic obstruction which blocks the drainage of lymph fluid, creating chronic swelling and increased risk of ulceration and infection. Lymphedema may be hereditary, due to infections, surgical procedures or other medical conditions such as blood pressure or heart problems, among others.

Here is the National Cancer Institute’s page on lymphedema

Stage III lymphedema, legs

Stage III lymphedema, legs

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, a type of skin cancer can arise in chronic wounds, like burn scars, ulcers, osteomyelitis (bone infection that can affect the skin) wounds, sites of previous radiation therapy, diabetic ulcers, and others. Squamous cell carcinomas that arise in chronic wounds (called Marjolin’s ulcers) tend to be more aggressive than other squamous cell carcinomas of the skin and need to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

In certain cases of chronic lymphedema, there is a risk of developing a malignancy, such as in chronic lymphedema of the arm after breast cancer surgery.

National Alliance of Wound Care certifies doctors, nurses and other health care professionals as wound care specialists.

Burn surgeons also take care of wounds but that is a special category.

As to why a health care professional would choose to practice wound care, this specialty is challenging. It requires a strong team approach. It makes a significant difference in patients’ lives in terms of reduction of pain, decreased risk of infection, decreased amputations and possibly lowered risk/earlier diagnosis of malignancies associated with chronic wounds.

Disclaimer: Advanced Skin Wisdom provides the content on this website solely for informational and educational purposes. Information provided on this website should not be considered medical advice and is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional. Communications to or from the Advanced Skin Wisdom website and any person will not be considered to establish a patient/doctor relationship.

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Disclaimer: The information on this Web site is solely for to educate patients. It is not intended to be medical advice and, therefore, should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional. Communications to or from the Summit Medical Group Web site and any person will not be used to establish a relationship between a patient and doctor.