OBJECTIVE: Hard-to-heal wounds are an important, yet often neglected, public health issue in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Malnutrition has been identified as a risk factor for prolonged healing times. However, nutritional supplements are not routinely provided for patients with hard-to-heal wounds, and so this study aimed to investigate their benefits.
METHOD: This 9-month study was conducted in the Taabo Health and Demographic Surveillance System in the south-central part of Côte d'Ivoire. Patients with wounds (≥30mm2) were recruited. Treatment was standardised for inpatients (72%) and outpatients (28%). There were three intervention groups: supplemented with soy; orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP); or both. Another group was included without supplement, serving as control. General linear models were employed to assess the effects of log initial wound size, type of wound, food treatment group, haemoglobin, sex, age, place of treatment and body mass index on the rate of wound closure.
RESULTS: The cohort consisted of 56 patients, 41 of whom were placed in intervention groups, and the remainder as controls. Within the cohort, 37 (66%) patients suffered from Buruli ulcer, 15 (27%) from traumatic wounds and four (7%) from erysipelas. We found a significant effect (p=0.004) of diet supplemented with OFSP on the wound healing rate.
CONCLUSION: OFSP is a nutritional rehabilitation supplement, characterised by a high content of beta-carotene and carbohydrates. It is associated with shortened wound healing times, reduced discomfort and reduced cost of wound care. Further research should investigate the effect of a diet rich in beta-carotene, in combination with standard medical care, on hard-to-heal wound healing in LMICs.