San Jose, CA– Twenty years ago, wound care was in its infancy. There weren’t many clinics that could take care of patients with chronic, non-healing wounds. Processes for treating patients’ wounds were long and tedious. Outcomes weren’t always positive, sometimes resulting in the loss of a limb.
“Often the only treatment for diabetics or smokers with vascular disease was to bypass the top of the leg to the foot to salvage the limb, or to just proceed with a major amputation,” said vascular surgeon Peter Schubart, M.D., medical director of the Wound Care Clinic. “We had to make large incisions and complications such as infections often occurred.”
A patient with a non-healing wound needed the expertise of a podiatrist, vascular surgeon, general surgeon, infection control specialist and nurses to manage the patient’s care.
“The concept of a team approach with doctors and nurses working together to take care of these patients is still vitally important,” Dr. Schubart said. “The Wound Care Clinic allows physicians in private practice to collaborate about the patient’s care and have a team available for outpatient management, or when a patient is admitted to the hospital.”
Today, the O’Connor Wound Care Clinic is a Joint Commission Certified Center of Excellence for Wound Care. “We have been a national training site for wound care,” Dr. Schubart added. “Over the years, we have done research studies and have worked with engineers to develop products that are now used throughout the country.”
The Clinic is recognized for its multidisciplinary team approach to determine why a wound is not healing and develop an individualized plan of patient care to heal the wound as quickly as possible. The core team of physicians now includes podiatrists, vascular and general surgeons, plastic surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon and an emergency physician who is refocused on wound care. Nurses are valuable collaborators with physicians and make major contributions to patients’ care.
The number of patients seen at the Wound Care Clinic has increased from one the first day in 1993 to nearly 700 per month today with a successful healing rate of more than 90%. Additionally, the treatment options for patients have changed over the years.
“What has continued to evolve is the knowledge of the critical factors that affect tissue injury and repair and to implement this knowledge to optimize patient outcomes,” said podiatrist Bruce Lerman, who has worked at the Wound Care Clinic for the past 20 years. “This includes improving oxygenation at the wound site to stimulate and support wound healing.”
The Wound Care Clinic includes two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers where patients breathe 100 percent oxygen at a pressure about two and a half times the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, thus delivering extra oxygen to the wounds for faster healing.
“The hyperbaric chamber is another tool that allows us to care for our patients at the clinic,” Dr. Schubart said. “There are now more advanced technologies and many options available to help the patient heal faster.”
Dr. Lerman agreed. “Accelerated wound healing technologies at O’Connor include growth factor therapy, bioengineered skin, tissue products, new mechanically functional dressing and the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of the wound site.”
“We are using advanced technology and now can heal wounds that we couldn’t heal before, with many wounds healing much faster,” Dr. Schubart added. “Our goal is to diagnose the cause of the wound, to get the wound to start healing, and to finish healing rapidly. We also educate the patient to prevent reoccurrence of his or her problem.”
The types of wounds that are treated at the Clinic include diabetic, venous, pressure or traumatic ulcers and ulcers due to arterial insufficiency. Ulcers are a sore on the skin accompanied by the disintegration of tissue.
“With the large volume of patients, we have been fortunate to be part of novel, cutting-edge research,” Dr. Lerman said. “We have learned through research and experience over the past 20 years which of these technologies work and which do not work.”
And the next frontier in wound care?
“In the next 10 years, I see the molecular mechanisms of wound care being figured out,” Dr. Schubart said. “Regenerative medicine will not only heal the wound but also make the tissue as good as the original.”
The O’Connor Wound Care Clinic, located across from O’Connor Hospital at 125 Ciro Ave., Suite 201 in San Jose, will be holding an open house to celebrate their 20th anniversary on Thursday, March 7 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served.