SOME 500,000 Australians live with chronic wounds that do not heal including venous leg ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers.
The painful and debilitating wounds can cause considerable distress and interfere with the sufferer's ability to work or go about everyday life.
Now a Queensland researcher has developed a risk assessment tool which can provide an early warning of which wounds need extra early intervention or referral to a specialist.
Dr Christina Parker of the Queensland Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation believes the tool has the potential to curb the multi-billion dollar cost of treating chronic wounds.
"The tool is simple," she said. "It collects variables such as the patient's age, the area of the wound, whether high compression stockings or bandages are used; to predict with 80 per cent accuracy which wounds need early intervention.
"This early intervention guides appropriate wound management and saves time and resources, and can reduce patients' pain, distress and lifestyle limitations."
Dr Parker's presentation on the assessment tool received the top award at the Cooperative Research Centres' Association 2019 conference.
The presentation focussed on a case study of a woman who had endured a venous leg ulcer for 15 years, but, Dr Parker said further research had focussed on all types of wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers which are also hard to heal.
"Until you've had one, most people don't realise the financial and social cost to the patient from wounds that do not heal," she said.
"The woman in my case study had had a chronic wound for more than 15 years, not the same wound but she had never been without a wound in all that time.
"She had even been asked to leave a coffee shop owing to the amount of ooze and smell coming from her wound.
"Consequently she no longer meets friends at coffee shops and has sometimes been unable to pay to attend senior citizens' outings due to the costs of dressings, appointments and medications."
Dr Parker said venous ulcers made up 70 per cent of all leg ulcers.
"Veins can be damaged as we age but 25 per cent of people with chronic wounds are under 65 and this has a significant impact on their ability to work and quality of life. People who spend a lot of time on their feet such as nurses and hairdressers can be prone to venous leg ulcers."
The risk assessment tool has already been developed into a computer and mobile application.
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