This study examined persons with a history of heroin injection who sought wound care for lower extremity venous ulcers and explored factors that affected their wound healing.
Descriptive, retrospective data were obtained by review of the medical records of an outpatient, urban clinic. An instrument was developed to record demographic, health, and illicit substance use information from the record.
One hundred forty men and 32 women, 160 of whom were black, 12 of whom were white, seen in a wound care clinic in an urban medical center were included in the study.
Primary outcome variables
Healing of venous ulcers present at the time care was sought, coexisting alcohol and tobacco use, and coexisting medical and mental health diagnoses.
Persons who sought care tended to be middle-aged men with multiple health problems and a long history of illicit drug use. Persons whose leg ulcers healed had significantly smaller leg ulcers than did persons currently in treatment or not available for follow-up.
Health care providers must be aware of the risk of venous insufficiency in current and former users of injected drugs and assess for venous insufficiency and venous ulcers. Users of injected drugs should be encouraged to seek professional wound care when ulcers are small, rather than attempting self-treatment.
Reprint requests: Barbara Pieper, PhD, RN, CS, CETN, FAAN, Wayne State University, College of Nursing, 5557 Cass Ave., Room 337, Detroit, MI 48202.
Copyright © 1996 by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society