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Modalities & Wound Care by Vince Lepak, PT, MPH, CWS Objective Students will have the guidelines for safe and appropriate application of the following modalities to promote wound healing: Hydrotherapy Ultrasound Electrical Stimulation Hyperbaric Oxygen Laser Compression pumps Whirlpool

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Modalities wound care l.jpg

Modalities & Wound Care


Vince Lepak, PT, MPH, CWS

Objective l.jpg

  • Students will have the guidelines for safe and appropriate application of the following modalities to promote wound healing:

    • Hydrotherapy

    • Ultrasound

    • Electrical Stimulation

    • Hyperbaric Oxygen

    • Laser

    • Compression pumps

Whirlpool l.jpg

  • Carrie Sussman (1998) stated that the lack of well designed clinical trials for the use of whirlpool with open wounds should encourage the clinician apply this modality with careful thought.

  • Three main reputed effects are:

    • controlling infection through the removal of debris and exudate

    • increased perfusion to local tissues

    • neuronal effects that produce analgesia

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Whirlpool Controls Infection?

  • Sussman (1998) indicates that uses of whirlpool to reduce the rate of infection in the literature is questionable.

  • She then sites literature that implicates whirlpool as a cause of nosocomial infections in patients with burns.

  • Many clinicians continue to use whirlpool even when it is not appropriate.

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Whirlpool Increases Circulation?

  • The benefits of increasing circulation include:

    • improved delivery of oxygen, nutrients, luekocytes, systemic antibiotics to tissues and removal of metabolites.

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Whirlpool Induces Analgesia?

  • calming

  • analgesia

  • gate effect

  • sedation of warmth

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Whirlpool Indications

  • Hecox (1994), Sussman (1998), and Loehne (2002, p.214) support the use of whirlpool with:

    • wounds with necrosis (nekros Gr.. dead)

    • wounds with adherent dressings

    • wounds that are dirty from trauma

    • wounds with residual from topical agents

Whirlpool contraindications l.jpg

Sussman (1998)

moderate to severe edema




febrile conditions

compromised cardiovascular or pulmonary system

acute phlebitis

renal failure

dry gangrene


Whirlpool Contraindications

  • Hecox (1994)

    • hypotensive or dopamine(vasoconstrictor)

    • advanced arterial disease(Burger's Allen)

    • hemorrhage tendency

    • incontinence

    • acute deep vein thrombosis(DVT)

    • acute pulmonary embolus(PE)

    • deep abdominal/chest wounds

    • acute myocardial infarction

    • wet gangrene

    • pregnancy -- temperature must be less than 1000f

Whirlpool precautions l.jpg

Sussman (1998) & Loehne (2002, p.214)

clean granulating wounds

epthelializing wounds

new skin grafts

new tissue flaps

non-necrotic ulcers secondary to diabetic neuropathy

Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR, 1994)

Heel ulcers with dry escar should not be debrided unless there are signs of infection, fluctuant, or drainage.

Whirlpool discontinued when ulcer is clean

Whirlpool Precautions

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Whirlpool Procedures

  • Sussman (1998)

    • frequency and duration

      • no clear guidelines

    • water temperature

      • 37 degree Celsius or 98 oF (Sussman) – too high for large immersions

      • (Loehne, 2002, p.213; Cameron, 1999, p.199)

        • tepid/nonthermal 80-92 oF (26.6-33.3 oC)

        • neutral 92-96 oF (33.3-35.5 oC)

        • thermal 96-104 oF (35.5-40 oC) – causes stress on cardiopulmonary and nervous system – limited body area with no medical complications

    • monitor vital signs (HR, BP, RR)

      • Hx: cardiopulmonary or cardiac disease, cerebrovascular accident, or hypertension

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  • Cameron (1999) states that mixed evidence exists on the efficacy of ultrasound accelerating wound healing

    • Positive wound healing studies with ultrasound

      • Dyson & Suckling (1978); pulsed 20% duty cycle, 1.0 W/cm2, 3 MHz, 5-10 minutes, on the wound’s perimeter, on venous stasis ulcerations

      • McDiarmid, Burns, Lewith, et al (1985); similar application on infected pressure ulcers as the Dyson & Suckling study

  • No beneficial effect with wound healing

    • Lundeberg, Nordstrom, Brodda-Jansen, et al (1990)

    • Eriksson, Lundeberg, Malm (1991)

    • TerRiet, Kessels, Knipschild (1996)

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Reported Physiological Effects of Ultrasound

  • physiological effects (Dyson, 1995)

    • increase fibroblastic activity

    • increase capillary permeability which increases calcium uptake

    • accelerate mast cell and macrophage releases

    • increase oxygen uptake with thermal effects

    • increase angiogenesis

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Recommended Treatment Procedures

  • Cameron (1999, p.283-285) & Kloth (2002, p.356-366)

    • 20% duty cycle

    • 0.5-1.0 W/cm2 – reparative to remodeling

    • 1-3 MHz

    • 5-10 minutes

    • direct, indirect, or perimeter technique

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Strength of Evidence for US

  • Conflicting results in the literature

  • Strength of evidence = “C”

(Kloth, 2002, p.359-365)

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Is it appropriate to use electrical stimulation (ES) for tissue healing?

  • YES, however it has been difficult to gain acceptance as a viable treatment.

  • In 1994, The Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Pressure Ulcers developed by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) recommends the use of ES on Stage III and IV pressure ulcers that are not responsive to conventional treatment.

  • Their recommendations are based on a B “Strength-of-Evidence Ratings.”

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AHCPR’s Evidence tissue healing?

  • Carley and Wainapel, 1985

  • Feedar, Kloth, and Gentzkow, 1991

  • Gentzkow, Pollack, Kloth, and Stubbs, 1991

  • Griffin, Tooms, Mendius, et al., 1991

  • Kloth and Feedar, 1988

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Proposed Theories tissue healing?(Brown, 1995; McCulloch, Kloth, & Feedar, 1995;Unger, 1992)

  • Increased microcirculation

  • Edema reduction/prevention

  • Antibacterial effects

  • Bio electric effects

    • Galvanotaxis

    • Injury Potential

  • Cellular effects

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Protocols tissue healing?(slide 1 of 3)

  • CMDC (Continuous Microamperage Direct Current

    • 200 - 1,000 microamperes2 - 4 hours a day; 3 - 7 days a weekcathodal 3 -5 treatments to reduce bacteriaanodal until healed; initiate only when wound free of infection; if cessation of healing occurs, the polarity should be switched

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Protocols tissue healing?(slide 2 of 3)

  • HVPC (High Volt Pulsed Current)

    • 75 - 200 volts80 - 100 pps45 - 60 minutes; 3 - 7 days a week cathodal 3 - 5 days for infectionanodal to heal, if plateau occurs, alter daily

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Protocols tissue healing?(slide 3 of 3)

  • Low Voltage Pulsed Microamperage Current or MENS [Microamperage Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation]

    • Arndt - Schulz Law - Weak stimuli increase physiological activity and very strong stimuli inhibits or abolishes activity.

    • monophasic or biphasic square wave

    • pulse duration up to 0.5 sec

    • freq. 0.1 - 99 Hz

    • peak intensity 990 microamperages

    • suggested uses

      • pain relief

      • edema

      • wound healing

        • two double-blind studies in 1994 - no improvement

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ELECTRODE PLACEMENT tissue healing?(McCulloch, Kloth, & Feedar, 1995)

This placement takes advantage of the “Current of Injury Theory.”

  • cathode over the wound, with the anode approximately 15cm proximal or closer to the spinal cord

  • anode over the wound, with the cathode approximately 15cm caudal or farther away from the spinal cord

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Electro Summary tissue healing?

  • Electrical stimulation augments the body’s endogenous biochemical system.

  • It should be applied if there are no clinical signs of healing in 14 days.

  • Contraindications are the same as any electrical modality with the addition of:

    • osteomyelitis

    • heavy metal residue

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Hyperberic Oxygen tissue healing?(Gogia, 1995)

  • increased phagocytosis

  • decreased infection

  • increased fibroblast proliferation

  • increased epithelial proliferation

  • promotes collagen synthesis

  • increased angiogenesis

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Indications for Nonhealing Wounds tissue healing?

  • Ischemic lesions

  • Venous stasis

  • Decubiti

  • Burns

  • DM

  • Cellulitis

  • Osteomyelitis

  • Pyoderma gangrenosum

  • Skin flaps in danger of ischemia

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Contraindications and Precautions tissue healing?

  • aerobic bacteria

  • thrombophlebitis

  • large vessel occlusion

  • severe ischemia

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Strength of Evidence tissue healing?forHBO

  • Venous ulcers – one small RCT and two case series = rating of “C”

  • DM foot ulcers – one RCT and two controlled trials = rating of “B”

(Kloth, 2002, p.350-353)

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HBO tissue healing?

  • Ciaravino et al., stated that the average cost of 30 HBO treatments was $14K.

(Kloth, 2002, p.352)

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Laser tissue healing?(Gogia, 1995)

  • He-Ne

    • Stimulate ATP formation

    • Increase immune system

    • Increase collagen synthesis

  • Treatment

    • 90 seconds of irradiation per cm2 @80 pps @ 4 J/cm2

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Normothermic Treatment tissue healing?

  • 37 + 1 oC (96.8 - 98.6 - 100.4 oF)

  • Infrared source of heat

  • semiocclusive – moisture retentive dressing

  • Proposed impact on the wound:

    • increase blood flow, tissue oxygenation, bacteriocidial, fibroblast proliferation, and increase the wound healing rate

  • Evidence: one RCT, a controlled study, a pilot study, and one prospective study = “B”

  • Follow the protocol (Kloth, 2002, p.321-322)

(Kloth, 2002, p.316-326)

References l.jpg
References tissue healing?

  • Brown, M. (1995). Electrical stimulation for wound management. In P. P. Gogia (Ed.), Clinical wound management (pp. 175-183). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK

  • Cameron, M. H. (1999). Hydrotherapy. In (Ed.), Physical agents in rehabilitation: From research to practice (pp.174-216). Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.

  • Dyson, M. (1995). Ultrasound management for wound management. In P. P. Gogia (Ed.), Clinical wound management (pp. 197-204). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK.

  • Gogia, P. P. (1995). Low-energy laser in wound management. In (Ed.), Clinical wound management (pp. 165-172). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK.

  • Gogia, P. P. (1995). Oxygen therapy for wound management. In (Ed.), Clinical wound management (pp. 186-195). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK.

  • Hecox, B., Mehreteab, T. A., & Weisberg, J. (1994). Physical agents: A comprehensive text for physical therapists. Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange.

  • Kloth, L. C. (2002). Adjunctive interventions for wound healing. In L. C. Kloth & J. M. McCulloch (Eds.), Wound healing alternatives in management (3rd ed., pp. 316-382). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

  • Loehne, H. B. (2002). Wound debridement and irrigation. In L. C. Kloth & J. M. McCulloch (Eds.), Wound healing alternatives in management (3rd ed., pp. 203-231). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

  • McCulloch, J. M., Kloth, L. C., & Feedar, J. A. (Eds.). (1995). Wound healing alternatives in management (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

  • Sussman, C., & Bates-Jensen. (1998). Wound care: a collaborative practice manual for physical therapists and nurses, Gaithersburg, MA: Aspen.

  • Unger, P.G. (1992). Electrical enhancement of wound repair. Physical Therapy, 41-49.

  • U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1994). Treatment of pressure ulcers (AHCPR Publication No. 95-0652). Rockville, MD: Author.