Debridement of Diabetic Wounds

April 12, 2012
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In light of our recent discussions on maggot therapy, I thought it would be wise to discuss different ways to debride diabetic wounds and their associated pros and cons. Wound care is continually being assessed for effectiveness and continues to evolve. This is a short review of some of the many options available.

The most obvious way to debride a wound is manually with a curette or scalpel blade. This is the mainstay of wound debridement due to its practicality and ease. This type of debridement can be done quickly in an office visit or bedside without any major equipment. It is cheap and fast and allows for evaluation immediately after. In more recent times, debridement using a machine producing sound waves has been used bedside to remove dead tissue. However, there is no evidence showing that it is more effective than a scalpel blade.

Surgical methods are another way to debride wounds. This is usually reserved for unusually large or chronic wounds that need deeper or more radical debridement. Instruments like the VersaJet combine manual debridement with highly pressurized water to remove non-viable tissue. The benefit of surgical debridement is that the patient is sedated so the doctor can be more aggressive and insure all dead is tissue removed. However, taking the patient to the operating room, needing medical clearance and the assistance of an anesthesiologist makes surgical debridement less practical and is only used if medically necessary.

Another type of debridement is use of ointments that contain enzymes that breakdown dead tissue. This is especially useful in situations where a patient has full sensation to the wound. Manual debridement may prove to be too painful for the patient to go through. In contrast, enzymatic ointments slowly dissolve making it painless for the patient. The downside of enzyme ointments is that they take longer to work. In addition, enzymes are very sensitive to small changes in pH, making it possible for them to be inactivated if the wound is too acidic or basic.

We’ll discuss mechanical debridement, autolytic debridement, as well as how wound care dressings can effect debridement in our next post.

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