What You Need to Know About Chronic Wound Infections

Chronic wounds are defined as those resistant to healing within an expected amount of time or show very little improvement after several weeks. Wound infections take place when complications to heal injuries or tears to the skin’s surface occur. The presence of germs and bacteria causes an open wound to become infected requiring innovative strategies to help it heal. Diagnosis and treatment of wound infections by wound care specialists vary depending on their wound type characteristics. Several types of bacteria can cause wound infections.

Common Types of Bacteria:

  • Staphylococci
  • Streptococci
  • Streptomyces

Anyone can get an infection. People with open wounds, weak immune systems or those living with diabetes are especially susceptible to wound and/or bone infection, called osteomyelitis. Complicated wounds can exceed the resources, equipment and expertise of most primary care providers. Patients with wounds that do not receive specialized care at a Wound Care Center® are 20 times more likely to end up hospitalized.

Types of Chronic Wounds:

  • Diabetic Foot Ulcers – resulting as a complication of diabetes, especially for people with lower extremity diabetic neuropathy
  • Arterial/Ischemic Ulcers – associated with peripheral artery disease and result from tissue ischemia caused by insufficient blood flow
  • Venous/Stasis Ulcer – veins fail to return a sufficient supply of blood to the heart, causing blood to pool in the legs.
  • Pressure Injuries – prolonged bed rest, immobility or improper fitting shoes
  • Radiation-related Wounds – soft tissue injury caused by radiation-related cancer treatment
  • Neuropathic Ulcers
  • Traumatic Wounds
  • Surgical Wounds
  • Burns

People Most at Risk for Developing a Non-healing Wound

Patients suffering from a non-healing wound are often living with three to four additional chronic conditions that negatively impact their ability to heal on their own. Age, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are all factors that contribute to the inability to heal wounds without specialized care.

Signs and Symptoms When Infection is Present

  • Bacteria multiplies and spreads in wound
  • The wound becomes red and swollen
  • Green or yellow pus or other foul-smelling cloudy fluid drains from the wound
  • Fever or chills
  • A red streak spreading from the wound
  • The wound has blisters, becomes black or brown from dead tissue
  • Increased pain or tenderness of infected area
  • Increased swelling around the wound
  • The wound increases in size

Our multi-disciplinary wound care teams strive to prevent, identify and manage these serious infections. When non-healing wounds are left untreated, they may require a stay in the hospital. Even worse, untreated chronic wounds could lead to an amputation or possibly death. Sadly, 50% of patients die within five years of amputation. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of an infection and do everything you can to prevent it from occurring.

Diagnosing a Wound Infection

During an examination your doctor may perform the following tests to determine if your wound is infected:

  • Cultures of the blood, bone or wound
  • X-rays, MRI, or CAT scans
  • Biopsy


Our Wound Care Centers deliver care through customized patient treatment plans and may include advanced modalities that aid in wound healing, such as total contact casting, cellular-based tissue therapy, negative pressure wound therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

Reduce Your Chances of Wound Infection

There are several things you can do to help ensure a successful treatment outcome for non-healing or chronic wounds. Good hygiene can help prevent infections and decrease your risk of getting sick. When home care instructions are carefully followed, you have a better chance of helping your wound heal.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds from the wrist down with water and antibacterial soap.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a CLEAN paper towel or towel.
  • Rub your hands together quickly for 20 seconds.
  • Only touch your dressing with clean, just washed hands.
  • Use gloves if you have them.
  • Keep urine, stool, and other body drainage away from your wound.
  • Keep your wound away from animal feces, urine, and hair.
  • Do not sneeze or cough on the dressing supplies or on your wound.
  • Keep your wound covered with a dressing at all times. The dressing protects the wound from dirt and bacteria, controls the drainage, and keeps medications on the wound.
  • Choose a clean, well-lit place with a washable surface to do your dressing changes.
  • Keep your dressing supplies away from the heat in a clean closed container. You can use a plastic box with a lid and keep the box off the floor.
  • Throw your old used dressings away. Wrap them in two plastic bags and tie it tightly. Throw them away in a closed trashcan.

If You Think You Have an Infection

If you think you have an infected sore, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room. You should seek care right away. Patients may be referred to a Wound Care Center by a physician, health care professional or self-referral by contacting a Center near you directly.

You can trust us to help you heal. Our wound care specialists are ready to see you at one of our 600+ Wound Care Centers® across the country. If you or someone you care for has a wound that is not healing, find a Center near you today.