When you have a handful of serious medical conditions to deal with, the number of specialists to see can become complicated and exhausting. A new program – to treat people dealing with unrelenting wounds – aims to simplify the process by bringing a cadre of specialists together, centering around patient needs.
The new Penn Center for Wound Healing and Reconstruction has started seeing patients in a coordinated clinic format, designed to flex and meet the variety of patient conditions the team sees.
"A typical patient is in their 50s, has diabetes and high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, and is dealing with a wound that just won't heal," said Center director Stephen Kovach, MD,
Assistant Professor of Surgery in Plastic Surgery. "Chronic wounds can be very challenging for patients, as well as caregivers, given that the wounds are so persistent and require unique treatment approaches."
At the same visit, a patient can see a plastic surgeon, foot and ankle surgeon and/or vascular surgeon about any surgical needs to repairs the wound, while also meeting with a specialists from departments such as Cardiology, Endocrinology, Hyperbaric Medicine and Infectious Diseases, to treat both the acute issue and the underlying condition(s) in parallel.
An estimated 3.8 - 5.7 million people are affected by chronic wounds in the United States, where most injuries start as minor issues - an insect bite, a scratch or a scrape. Because of underlying diseases like diabetes or neuropathy, the wounds or ulcers don't heal normally, and can become infected or persist despite treatment efforts.
"We're treating the whole patient, with medical and reconstructive experts, in one place," notes Kovach. "And we're looking at the patho-physiology of the wound itself, to figure out why the wound may not be healing normally and how we can fix it."