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Healthy Living

New Help for Seniors Suffering Non-Healing Wounds

By Karen C. Shum, DPM, Medical Director, Amputation Prevention Center

When you have a wound that doesn’t heal, it’s very frustrating. You can experience pain, difficulty walking and even trouble sleeping at night. Worst of all, a small wound that doesn’t heal can become infected and result in the loss of a limb.

That’s why THIPA doctors urge you to pay close attention to a wound of any kind, especially on your legs and feet.

“If you have tan or dark tissue within a wound or surrounding skin, this could indicate poor blood flow and that wound healing has stalled,” explains Dr. Karen Shum, Medical Director of the Amputation Prevention Center at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. “

The Amputation Prevention Center offers new help for THIPA members with non-healing wounds by pairing skilled foot and ankle surgeons with vascular surgeons and wound specialists who use state of the art diagnostic tools and treatments.

“The longer it takes a wound to heal, the higher the risk of an infection and potential for amputation.”

“We specialize in the management of infection, restoration of blood flow, wound debridement, offloading of wounds due to pressure, skin grafting and reconstructive foot surgery”, says Dr. Shum.

“Because good circulation is vital to healing, the initial visit to our center involves assessing blood flow in the lower extremities using a laser Doppler machine. A debridement of the wound may also be necessary to remove devitalized tissue. Labs and other diagnostic tests such as x-rays may be ordered to evaluate the extent of the problem.”

The Amputation Prevention Center is the only center in the South Bay with one of the most exciting new treatments, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), expected to be available early this year.

“Patients are placed in a pressurized chamber and breathe 100% pure oxygen, with the air pressure increased two to three times that of normal air pressure,” explains Dr. Shum. “This results in an increased concentration of oxygen levels in the bloodstream that’s delivered to the local tissues. This promotes wound healing, stimulates white blood cells to fight infection and in some instances enhance the effectiveness of certain antibiotics.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions typically last two hours per day for four to six weeks. The Amputation Prevention Center also offers bioengineered skin substitutes and negative pressure wound therapy. “Patients should be referred by their doctor to our center if they have redness, swelling, or a wound in the lower extremity that has not responded to conventional therapy,” says Dr. Shum. “Patients may self-refer to the outpatient clinic where they may then be referred to the center. If a patient is hospitalized, one of our specialists can provide a consultation.”

The Amputation Prevention Center at Torrance Memorial Medical Center is located at 3330 Lomita Blvd West Tower 5th Floor, Torrance, CA 90505. Their number is 310-517-4736.

A wound may require specialized treatment if it:

  • Has not healed in four to six weeks
  • Appears red, inflamed or infected
  • Oozes pus or fluid
  • Flares up repeatedly after beginning to heal
  • Causes a fever
  • Has an odor
  • Causes pain after the initial onset of the wound.

If you’re struggling with a wound that won’t heal, it’s important to seek care from your physician immediately.