A Timeline for Wound Healing Phases
Hemostasis is the first phase of wound healing in which bleeding is stopped.
While there is some truth to the old adage that “time heals all wounds,” understanding the wound healing phases and how to cater to the body’s natural responses to an injury is the most efficient way to speed up the recovery process. The most important aspect to understand with wound care is that while nature can eventually take its course in terms of healing, more serious injuries require immense comprehension of which recovery stage your injury is going through. Here is a general overview regarding the four phases of wound healing and what you can expect to endure during these periods:
Before a plumber can effectively fix a busted pipeline, stopping the leak is the main priority. The same goes for wound care, and making sure that bleeding has ceased is the first step in effectively initiating the wound healing phases that follow. Hemostasis is the act of halting bleeding when the blood vessels have been damaged. Essentially there are three different stages of hemostasis:
- Vascular spasm
- Platelet plug formation
- Blood coagulation
Vascular spasm is when the damaged vessels begin to constrict, which then decreases the amount of blood flow to the wound, eliminating severe loss of blood. The process of platelet plug formation then takes place, prompting platelet blood cells to stick to impaired endothelium, or a slim layer of cells that make up the interior surface of blood vessels, causing the endothelium to degranulate. Once the platelets have began to successfully clog the bleeding, blood coagulation begins, which basically is the transition of blood going from more of a liquid base to a thicker state.
Once blood vessels in the wound bed have contracted and hemostasis has been successfully achieved, it’s time for essential cells, such as antibodies, nutrients and white blood cells, to travel to the site of the injury. The inflammatory phase is important for patients to monitor levels of exudation, and if not drained properly, maceration can occur, which will soften and break down your skin after too much moisture within the wound has been experienced.
Inflammation is also the stage in which you will begin to feel the irritating symptoms of wound healing, such as itching, swelling, redness or pain occurring in the surrounding skin. Remember that these side effects are natural elements of the process, and should be nothing to worry about unless the pain is deemed unbearable, in which a trip to the clinician is your best source for treatment.
This chapter of wound healing can be accredited as the ‘rebuilding’ phase for a wound, primarily because new tissue is being created along with a new network of blood vessels. This new granulation tissue can only be deemed healthy if proper oxygen and nutrients have been supplied to the wound and body during this recovery stage. You can note whether new granulation tissue is in good shape by noting if its color is a pinkish red, as well as if it doesn’t bleed when contacted.
Once you have reached this stage in the wound healing phase, you can pretty much sit back, relax and let nature run its course. The injury has officially closed, and as dermal tissue slowly matures and strengthens, cellular activity near the wound bed decreases, and it is now up to you in terms of making sure the newly covered lesion remains that way. Keep in mind that this stage in the process can take anywhere from a couple months to many years, typically depending on the severity of the wound, so it’s best not to pick at it and continue to let it fortify.