Image Credit: Häggström, Mikael (2014). "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 2002-4436. Public Domain. or By Mikael Häggström, used with permission. [Public domain]
When recovering from breast reconstruction surgery, the initial phases of the wound-healing process are expected to take around four to six weeks. Within 3 months, the wound repair is almost as strong as it was before surgery. The entire wound healing process might take a couple of years to complete and for scars to fully mature. This time can be split into four distinct stages that are used to categorize the complex bodily processes that automatically happen during this time.
The graph above shows an average timeline for the wound-healing process; however, certain factors can disrupt or prevent this progression. These factors include reduced or inadequate blood supply to the wound. The oxygen and nutrients that new blood carries to the wound are essential to successful healing. A wound that is not getting enough blood could take at least twice as long to heal.
Other medical issues that also contribute to slow wound healing are diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, vascular disease, and long-term use of certain medications. Infection, edema, insufficient nutrition, and repetitive trauma to the wound can also inhibit wound healing.
Stage 1: Hemostasis
The hemostasis stage starts immediately and involves blood clotting, which is the natural process needed to start wound healing. As the body’s first response to injury, clotting works to inhibit blood loss.
First, the blood vessels in the wound area constrict to slow blood flow (vasoconstriction). As this occurs, platelets (tiny blood cells made in bone marrow) are released at this injured area. The platelets adhere to the walls of damaged blood vessels and block the break in these walls.
The platelets then start to coagulate with fibrin (the fibrous protein produced in response to bleeding) to reinforce this barrier. The combination of platelets and fibrin forms a blood clot to seal broken vessels and prevent blood loss.
Hemostasis takes several days depending on the severity of the wound, but it starts immediately when blood exits the body. During this stage, keeping a wound covered with a bandage or gauze can facilitate blood clotting and promote excellent healing.
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