Venous leg ulcers (VLUs) are long-lasting sores that take more than two weeks to heal. They cause tremendous pain and suffering for the patients, as well as high costs for healthcare providers due to the extended timeframes for healing and a very labour-intensive interaction.
VLUs are a common and major medical problem for people around the world, especially among the elderly. Most people experience occasional minor bumps and bruises during daily activities. For younger people this does not generally cause big problems. However, for older people, who are typically less active and often have one or more health conditions, these injuries become much more serious and require significant medical attention.
Why does a seemingly minor leg bump grow to become such a problem? Because, as we age, skin breaks down and blood circulation in the legs is reduced, resulting in the pooling of blood in the damaged area, causing the leg to swell since the system isn’t pumping the blood back out of the leg.
To heal the wounds, we need increased blood circulation in the leg so oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood can get to the wound site. Also, since wounds can take months to heal, it should ideally be a solution that can be used in the home, is easy to operate, and doesn’t require the wound to be dressed (cleaned and wrapped) each time.
Huntleigh Healthcare, a member of the Arjo family, collaborated with the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, Accelerate CIC and Helsingborgs Lasarett in Sweden, to develop and evaluate a revolutionary new therapy – the WoundExpress – to address these previously unmet needs.
For improved circulation, the device uses a sleeve or garment that is applied around the thigh, a bit like the one applied to the arm when people have their blood pressure taken. Then, three chambers in the garment inflate and deflate in a special sequence to gently massage the leg, which pushes venous blood out and draws arterial blood in.
Patients often find compression bandages difficult to tolerate because they apply pressure directly over the ulcer site, which can cause pain and interfere with other treatments. Applying the compression to the thigh, however, is more acceptable to patients and provides a highly effective way of promoting healing.
Being lightweight, portable and quiet also allows patients to use WoundExpress at home or out of home, causing a minimal amount of disruption of lifestyle and daily activities.
In clinical evaluations of hard-to-heal ulcers, significant improvement was seen in wound healing, with a third of the cases healing entirely after only 16 weeks of treatment with WoundExpress. Furthermore, 80 per cent of patients reported significant reduction of ulcer-related pain.
The revolution in advanced wound care therapy started by WoundExpress means that hard-to-heal wounds are now actually able to heal much faster, easier and more comfortably, improving the quality of life for thousands of people around the world every day.