Chronic Wounds: Evaluation and Management

Am Fam Physician. 2020 Feb 1;101(3):159-166.


Chronic wounds are those that do not progress through a normal, orderly, and timely sequence of repair. They are common and are often incorrectly treated. The morbidity and associated costs of chronic wounds highlight the need to implement wound prevention and treatment guidelines. Common lower extremity wounds include arterial, diabetic, pressure, and venous ulcers. Physical examination alone can often guide the diagnosis. All patients with a nonhealing lower extremity ulcer should have a vascular assessment, including documentation of wound location, size, depth, drainage, and tissue type; palpation of pedal pulses; and measurement of the ankle-brachial index. Atypical nonhealing wounds should be biopsied. The mainstay of treatment is the TIME principle: tissue debridement, infection control, moisture balance, and edges of the wound. After these general measures have been addressed, treatment is specific to the ulcer type. Patients with arterial ulcers should be immediately referred to a vascular surgeon for appropriate intervention. Treatment of venous ulcers involves compression and elevation of the lower extremities, plus exercise if tolerated. Diabetic foot ulcers are managed by offloading the foot and, if necessary, treating the underlying peripheral arterial disease. Pressure ulcers are managed by offloading the affected area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Diabetic Foot / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pressure Ulcer / physiopathology
  • Pressure Ulcer / therapy
  • Varicose Ulcer / physiopathology
  • Varicose Ulcer / therapy
  • Wound Healing / physiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*