Patients with Surgical Wounds Healing by Secondary Intention: A Prospective, Cohort Study

Catherine Ellen Levene, Ian Chetter, AV Oswald, E McGinnis, Nikki Stubbs, Hannah Buckley, Kerry Jane Bell, Jo C Dumville, Nicky Cullum, Marta Ferreira Oliveira Soares, Pedro Rafael Saramago Goncalves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Surgical wounds healing by secondary intention can be difficult and costly to manage and are profoundly under researched. This prospective inception, cohort study aimed to derive a better understanding of surgical wounds healing by secondary intention and to facilitate the design of future research investigating effective treatments. Objectives: To investigate the clinical characteristics of patients with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention and the surgeries that preceded their wounds; to clearly delineate the clinical outcomes of these patients, specifically focusing on time to wound healing and its determinants; to explore the types of treatments for surgical wounds healing by secondary intention; and to assess the impact surgical wounds healing by secondary intention have on patients’ quality of life. Design: Prospective, inception cohort study. Setting: Acute and community settings in eight sites across two large centres in the United Kingdom (Hull and Leeds, UK). Methods: Patients with a surgical wounds healing by secondary intention (an open wound, < 3 weeks’ duration, resulting from surgery), were recruited and followed up for at least 12 months. Key outcome events included: time to healing; treatment type; infection; hospital re-admission and further procedures; health-related quality of life and pain. Results: In total, 393 patients were recruited. Common co-morbidities were cardiovascular disease (38%), diabetes (26%) and peripheral vascular disease (14.5%). Baseline median SWHSI area was 6 cm2 (range 0.01-1200). Abdominal (n=132), foot (n=59), leg (n=58) and peri-anal (n=34) wounds were common. The majority of wounds (236, 60.1%) were intentionally left open following surgery; the remainder were mostly dehisced wounds. Healing was observed in 320 (81.4%) wounds with a median time to healing of 86 days (95% CI: 75-130). Factors associated with delayed healing included wound infection at any point and baseline wound area above the median. Health-related quality of life scores were low at baseline but improved with time and healing. Conclusions: This is the first inception cohort study in patients with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention. Patient characteristics have been clearly defined, with prolonged healing times and adverse events being common impacting on patient’s health-related quality of life. Areas for, and factors crucial to the design of, future research have been identified. Key Words: Surgical wounds, secondary intention, inception cohort, characteristics, clinical outcomes, treatments, quality of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Early online date18 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

©2018 The Authors.


  • Characteristics
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Inception cohort
  • Quality of life
  • Secondary intention
  • Surgical wounds
  • Treatments

Cite this