Many patients in the acute care setting have either come to the hospital with an existing wound or develop one while there. Wounds, or pressure ulcers, begin when the skin is compressed between a bony prominence and an external surface, like a bed or chair, for an extended period of time. The most common areas for the development of pressure ulcers include the pelvic, hip and heel areas. Nutrition is indispensable in the healing process. Recognizing that certain nutrients in the diet will aid the healing process is an essential step in the care of patients with pressure ulcers (Chernoff et al., 2004). In the event that the dietitian is not able to see the patient prior to discharge, the nurse is often responsible for providing some basic nutrition information to aid in wound healing.
Extended pressure on bony areas prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching the tissue. The tissue becomes injured and eventually dies. A blister forms over the area, eventually creating an open area in the skin (Chernoff et al., 2004). Increased protein intake has been shown to improve wound healing in patients with pressure ulcers/wounds. Protein is one of our main food sources used for cell maintenance, tissue repair, and muscle building. Often high protein supplements are necessary to maximize the amount of protein consumed by patients with wounds. Optimal nutrition is an integral part of comprehensive wound management, and is essential to meet the increased calorie/protein needs and to decrease the use of protein as an energy source (Demling et al., 2003).
To aid in the wound healing process, dietary protein and fluids should be increased and a healthy diet must be maintained. High biological value protein comes from animal sources such as:
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Eggs, egg whites, and egg substitutes
- Cheese, milk, and yogurt
Additional high-protein sources to aid in wound healing include:
- Peanut butter
- Dried beans and peas
- Nuts and seeds
Wound Care Survival Skills
- Follow a balanced meal plan that includes food from all of the food groups.
- Make sure foods high in protein are included with every meal and snack. Approximately 5-7 ounces of meat daily should be adequate if the balanced meal plan includes adequate calories and at least three dairy servings per day.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Ten to 12 cups of caffeine-free liquid is recommended for wound healing unless the physician has instructed the patient to limit them.