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Wound care challenges in children and adults with spina bifida: An open-cohort study


Skin breakdown is a frequent concern for individuals with spina bifida. We explored wound incidence in patients with spina bifida and how it varies across a person's life span and functional neurologic level. We examined the settings in which skin breakdown most commonly occurred, looking for evidence of chronic, non-healing wounds. We also sought to develop criteria to improve wound monitoring. We identified reported wound episodes in an open-cohort study over a 13-year period, examining the hospital and outpatient clinical records of spina bifida patients at Children's National Medical Center (CNMC). Current age, age at wound presentation, sex, weight, functional neurologic level, wound location, setting in which the wound was acquired, the development of a chronic wound, and presence of a shunt were recorded. Of the 376 patients in our clinical population, 123 (average age: 18.8 years, range: infancy–56 years) developed a total of 375 wounds; the majority of patients who developed one wound went on to develop one or more additional wounds, and 20 patients developed chronic wounds. Our data suggest that age bracket (adolescents), wheelchair use, and bare feet, as well as possibly obesity and reduced executive functioning, are key risk factors for wound development. These findings have led to a focused effort to increase wound education and prevention. In addition we report on our early experience using a wound care specialist to champion this initiative.