Health care providers say demand for advanced wound care services is poised to increase as more Americans become aware of available services.
Local health systems are taking notice and have been building up wound care services in recent years.
“People can live a lifetime with a chronic wound because they didn’t know there was treatment,” said Beth Blank, director of business development at Fort Hamilton Hospital.
Fort Hamilton, operated by Kettering Health Network, was the first in Butler County to open a wound care center. Its Center for Wound Healing opened in late 2006, and the hospital followed that up last year by opening a second center in Liberty Twp.
Mercy Health — Fairfield Hospital has operated a wound care center since March 2013.
Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, operated by Premier Health, told this newspaper in March it is currently renovating 3,000 square feet of its campus to open a full service wound care center by summer.
“People are going six weeks to six years with wounds not healing,” Blank said, leading to higher chances of infection and amputation. “No one likes living with wounds or in pain.”
Just over 2,000 patients have made a total of 5,666 visits to Fort Hamilton’s wound care center since January 2007, according to Kettering Health. The top ailments bringing in patients are foot ulcers — or shallow, red craters that when left untreated can become infected and run through the entire thickness of the foot.
“They don’t have to live with those wounds,” said Christy Quincy, program director at the Wound Care Center at Mercy Health — Fairfield Hospital. “We’re here for the wounds that won’t heal.”
Quincy has been director at Fairfield’s wound care center since the end of March. She previously worked at Community First Solutions in Hamilton, and before that as director of Fort Hamilton’s wound care center.
“What’s neat about Butler County is the way in which it’s developing (wound care) will be very convenient for our very sick patients to get care,” Quincy said.
She said the development of wound care centers correlates with the rising number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes.
Each year, 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. There are currently over 30 million Americans living with diabetes and another 86 million with prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Complications from diabetes include poor circulation to legs and feet that can cause slow healing of cuts and numbness in the limbs known as neuropathy. About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of neuropathy, according to American Diabetes Association.
Mike Robinson, 48, who lives in Greenhills just 10 minutes from Fairfield Hospital, was a patient at Fairfield’s wound care center from last November to this February.
Just a few months prior in July 2014, Robinson received a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes after a small cut on his big toe caused his entire foot to go purple within days and wouldn’t heal.
“The diabetes magnified it (the cut),” Robinson said.
Robinson developed osteomyelitis, a bone infection, which caused a gaping hole all the way through his foot and eventually led to two toes being amputated.
In total, Robinson received 60 treatments inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
“It’s absolutely the easiest thing; you lay in it,” he said.
Robinson is now managing his diabetes with insulin shots and has to inspect his feet daily for cuts because he has no feeling in the front of his feet.
“Everything’s healed now,” Robinson said. “I’m lucky I haven’t had any problems walking or balancing. Everything could have been much worse.”
Other common persistent injuries treated at wound care centers include surgical wounds with difficulty healing; wounds from radiation therapy; and wounds related to lack of blood supply to the legs or feet, such as venous ulcers on the lower leg.
Over 2 million Americans will suffer from venous ulcers in their lifetime, according to Healogics, a national company that operates over 700 wound care centers in the U.S. and treats 230,000 patients annually.
Healogics has contracts with the wound care centers in Hamilton, Fairfield and Liberty Twp. to oversee management of the centers and provide hyperbaric oxygen chambers. They are also signed on as a partner at Atrium’s impending center.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company also provides training and recruitment of medical staff and access to a robust database of best practices and wound healing data, according to Jessica Taft, director of marketing and corporate communications at Healogics.
The wound care center in Fairfield treats about 100 patients each week. The center has two hyperbaric oxygen chambers for the most “challenging wounds,” Quincy said.
“You’re enclosed in a chamber and breathe pure oxygen. It’s 15 to 20 times normal oxygen … it speeds up healing,” Quincy said.
Only about 18 percent of patients to the Fairfield center need hyperbaric oxygen treatment, but it’s a more intense treatment given daily for 90 minutes. Over 95 percent of patients have their wounds healed in less than 27 days with oxygen therapy.
For the other 80 percent of patients, treatment includes special wound dressings and wraps, compression therapy, skin grafting and debridement, which is a surgical cleaning of the wound to get to clean tissue.
The Fairfield center has seven specialized physicians, including general surgeons, vascular surgeons, podiatry and primary care, and five nurses trained in wound care and hyperbaric medicine.
“Specialized treatment from wound specialists close to home,” Quincy said.
Fort Hamilton also has seven physicians between its two wound care centers.
The Liberty Pointe center, opened to patients Dec. 29, sees about 10 patients a week so far. They will be installing a hyperbaric oxygen chamber later this month.
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