What is a venous leg ulcer?

A venous leg ulcer (VLU) is an open skin wound that usually occurs on the lower part of the leg, between the knee and ankle. 

VLUs are not the result of an outside injury. Rather, they are typically caused by circulation issues related to other health conditions. They can be large or small, shallow or deep. What unites them is their tendency to be very slow to heal, with most VLUs showing little to no progress within 4-6 weeks of initial occurrence. 

Causes of VLUs

The root cause of VLUs can be traced to circulation. The main culprit is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a blanket term referring to a condition where the venous walls or valves in the lower extremities do not work properly, making it difficult for blood to return to the heart after arriving in the legs. Blood stagnates in the veins and the protein-rich fluid components of blood leak into the leg tissues. This results in sometimes painful swelling, leathery and discolored skin, varicose veins and (you guessed it) venous leg ulcers.

Treatment solutions

When a VLU does rear its ugly head, there are ways to treat it, and 3M products can help. 

Below are the four steps to follow when caring for VLUs. VLUs have a 55% recurrence rate within 12 months of wound closure, so it’s important to follow each step carefully.  

STEP 1: Protect skin

When dealing with an exuding wound like a VLU, there is a real danger that the surrounding peri-wound skin might be damaged by the exudate. This is why it’s important to apply some type of skin protectant product to the area. This will create a barrier and protect the skin from damage.

3M™ Cavilon™ No Sting Barrier Film – available in 1 and 3ml wand applicators – is a reliable favorite of consumers and medical professionals alike. 3M™ Cavilon™ Advanced Skin Protectant is designed to help manage moderate to severe skin damage and protect at-risk skin. The ultra-thin yet highly durable barrier is able to attach to wet, weepy surfaces and create a protective environment that repels irritants and supports healing. Cavilon Advanced Skin Protectant is available as a sponge-tip applicator.

STEP 2: Prepare wound bed

Once the peri-wound is fully protected, our step to consider is decreasing bioburden and inflammation. Biofilm is a very common cause of both wound inflammation and delays in healing. It’s important to apply a base dressing layer that addresses these issues by creating an optimal healing environment. 

One solution is a silver-infused fiber or alginate. 3M™ Kerracel™ Ag Gelling Fiber Dressing and 3M™ Silvercel™ Non-Adherent Antimicrobial Alginate Dressing are excellent examples, respectively. 3M™ Promogran Prisma™ Matrix is another possibility, if your healthcare professional feels that a collagen dressing may help to manage inflammation and promote an optimal healing environment. 

STEP 3: Optimize wound environment

Like any exuding wound, a VLU must have an absorbent layer to manage exudate. It also must be a protective layer that protects the wound from outside contaminants. 3M makes three products, each of which serve both of these purposes.

3M™ Tegaderm™ Silicone Foam Dressing is perfect for moderate-to-high exuding wounds. Its silicone design enables it to be lifted and repositioned while still retaining adhesion. For high-exuding wounds, 3M provides two choices: 3M™ Kerramax Care™ Super-Absorbent Dressing and 3M™ Tegaderm™ High Performance Foam Adhesive Dressing.

STEP 4: Provide compression therapy

Compression therapy has been shown to increase the rate of healing in VLUs. Therapeutic compression, for those whose health permits, can do much toward supporting venous pump mechanisms, thereby reducing edema.

3M™ Coban™ 2 Two-Layer Compression System delivers therapeutic compression for limb compression. It is easy to apply and remove and is designed to stay in place, increasing patient compliance and the potential for more effective treatment.

VLUs are the most common type of lower extremity wound…

…and represent a significant burden on those afflicted, both physically and financially.  If you, or someone you know, is struggling to recover from a venous leg ulcer, consider these skin and wound care best practices for their treatment. 

For more information on Venous Leg Ulcers, please visit 3M.com/VLU.

NOTE: Specific indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and safety information exist for these products and therapies, some of which may be Rx only. Please consult a clinician and product instructions for use prior to application.

© 2021 3M. All rights reserved. 3M and the other marks shown are marks and/or registered marks. Unauthorized use prohibited. PRA-PM-US-03255 (06/21)

Leave a comment