Winter 2013
Ask the Experts: Wounds and Circulation

Dana Cavicke, MD, CWS

I have had a sore on my foot for months that just won’t heal— or even scab over. In fact it’s getting worse. I was also diagnosed with vascular disease. Are these connected? Is my poor circulation contributing to the condition of the open sore?

Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine, Medical Director Dana Cavicke, MD, CWS, responds:

Blood circulation is the flow of blood from the heart throughout the body. Blood carries important nutrients, such as oxygen, and removes contaminants, both of which are required to maintain healthy skin and muscles. Good circulation is crucial to wound healing. Without good circulation, wounds heal very slowly or not at all.

Chronic wounds are sores that persist for months or even years and often do not respond to traditional healing treatments. Chronic wounds usually have underlying causes—such as poor blood circulation—that must be addressed in order for the wound to heal properly, or at all.

The sore on your foot may be caused by poor circulation in the veins and arteries in your feet and legs. Diseases such as diabetes and peripheral vascular disease (PVD), or conditions such as inadequate heart valve function, can affect blood circulation. So can a blockage in a vein or artery leading to the legs and feet (which can be corrected with surgery). Smoking also prevents good circulation, because nicotine decreases blood circulation, and the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke decreases oxygen delivery to skin and muscle.

Lack of adequate blood flow to your feet and legs can also cause numbness. Numbness can be extremely dangerous because if you get hurt, you may not even realize it, making those wounds prone to infection.

By improving circulation and blood flow, more nutrients and oxygen reach the cells that heal skin.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been shown to improve healing in patients with poor circulation due to diabetes, bone infections, compromised skin grafts and flaps and radiation-damaged tissue. Circulatory problems from crush injuries and frostbite are also treated with HBOT. In HBOT, a patient breathes in 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber during daily sessions over several days.

If you are worried about your wound, it is best to speak with your doctor or a wound specialist sooner rather than later.

Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Cavicke on WICC AM 600

When you’re ready to explore treatment for your wound, please call The Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine at Bridgeport Hospital, 203-384-HEAL (4325). No referral is necessary. Our wound specialists will evaluate you and recommend a treatment plan to optimize your healing.