Managing leg ulceration in intravenous drug users
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Managing leg ulceration in intravenous drug users

Jemell Geraghty Lead tissue viability nurse, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Jemell Geraghty explains how emergency department nurses can manage leg ulceration in patients who have injected in the lower limbs

Chronic venous leg ulceration is a long-term condition commonly associated with lower-limb injecting and chronic venous hypertension caused by collapsed veins, incompetent valves, deep vein thrombosis and reflux. It is not usually a medical emergency, but intravenous (IV) drug users with leg ulcers can attend emergency departments (EDs) with a different primary complaint such as pain or because they cannot access local primary care or voluntary services. Leg ulceration might then be identified during history taking, so it is important that ED nurses know how to assess and manage these wounds. This article explains how to assess and manage chronic venous leg ulcers in patients with a history of IV drug use, and highlights the importance of referral to specialist services when required, and to local primary care or voluntary services, before discharge to prevent admission and re-attendance.

Emergency Nurse. 23, 5, 16-23. doi: 10.7748/en.23.5.16.e1466


Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and has been checked using antiplagiarism software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 28 May 2015

Accepted: 15 June 2015

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