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Temperature likely factor in venous disorders

The following article is dedicated to National Nurses Week, which began May 6 and concludes May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

More than two million Americans suffer from venous leg ulcers that produce chronic pain and disfigure the skin. Research led by an MUSC nurse is looking at ways to identify risk factors of venous leg ulcers and prevent and ease the suffering of patients that experience them.
Venous leg ulcers result from a vascular disorder in which proper blood circulation from the legs is impaired. This impaired blood flow can lead to permanent skin damage and recurring ulcers.
Teresa Kelechi, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor and nurse researcher at the MUSC College of Nursing, said that the temperature of the lower legs damaged by poor skin circulation becomes elevated, and when temperatures get too high, the skin can ulcerate.
Kelechi has pioneered the use of infrared thermometers to measure skin temperature of the legs affected by venous disorders. She is a certified wound care nurse and is currently conducting two studies that involve patients with chronic venous disorders.
The goal of her research is to find out if different treatments can reduce skin temperature, improve the skin circulation and prevent ulcers from reappearing. While it takes about four to 12 months for venous ulcers to heal, many will come back several times during an individual’s lifetime, she said.
Kelechi shows patients how to monitor their skin temperature with a handheld infrared thermometer. If temperatures rise above normal levels, she teaches them to properly elevate the legs, and to apply a special cool gel wrap to the skin to cool it, when necessary. Kelechi also is testing the effects of a new wound-healing dressing on venous ulcers.
Skin temperature is monitored in all of these studies, which can be done by patients in their homes, to provide information about the condition of their skin.
“This is a very unique approach to the care of the patient, because it allows patients to measure and monitor temperature, a skin vital sign,” said Kelechi. “Changes in the temperature could be an early warning sign of an impending ulcer, and patients could take rapid action to prevent it.”

Friday, May 9, 2008
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