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June 2010 | 0 Comments | Print

Healing Chronic Wounds: The importance of protein

With Rank Dawson, Jr., MD, plastic surgeon at The Christ Hospital

As humans, our biological priorities are oxygen, protection from temperature extremes, water and nourishment. Most people and caregivers have a good understanding of the first three but may not understand the complexities of nourishment. This misunderstanding can have serious results in people who have chronic wounds, says Rank Dawson, Jr., MD, a plastic surgeon with The Christ Hospital.

What is catabolism?

When affected by catabolism a person’s energy consumption is greater than his or her caloric intake for 24 hours, causing the body to burn stored energy, protein and micronutrients. A chronic wound – a wound that generally hasn’t healed within eight weeks – can sometimes trigger catabolism. A chronic wound can weaken a person’s nutritional state because of the wound’s nutritional healing needs and the direct loss of nutrition through the wound’s drainage, however small it may be. This increase in the body’s fuel needs may be greater than the nutrition available and can result in the body becoming depleted and catabolic. At this point, the body can no longer respond to the increased needs for wound healing.

Catabolism doesn’t cause serious harm over a short period of time. However, in the case of a chronic wound, when this process continues it can often lead to serious problems, including urinary tract infection, pneumonia, skin breakdown in other areas of the body and muscle weakness. These conditions are further aggravated by protein loss, contributing to overall declining health and an increased risk of sepsis and death.

The importance of protein

Eating enough protein on a regular basis can prevent some of the problems that occur with wound healing. If you’re seriously injured, you should discuss with your physician taking oral supplements in addition to increasing your dietary protein intake. If your protein needs exceed your ability to eat, temporary tube feedings may be necessary. With a better understanding of the critical role protein nutrition plays in wound healing and disease prevention, you can better adjust your diet to improve your future health.

We’ll help you heal!

Do you have a wound that won’t heal? The experts at The Christ Hospital Wound Healing Center are available for consultation. To schedule an appointment, call 513-585-4595 or visit

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