Principles of Wound Healing: Anatomy and Physiology

Key Points

  • The basic components of skin (superficial epidermis, dermis, and subcutis layers) are conserved across species with slight but significant differences.
  • Mammalian skin is highly elastic, with a high degree of mobility, while bird skin is thinner with less overall elasticity. Reptilian skin is dry with highly variable elasticity.
  • Wound healing is a direct and immediate response to tissue damage that involves physical, chemical, and cellular processes.
  • The inflammatory stage begins immediately following traumatic injury. White blood cells begin to accumulate in the wound within 6-12 hours post-injury. Within 24 hours, mononuclear cells predominate in the wounds of mammals and birds, while reptile wounds contain a mixed population of heterophils and macrophages.
  • The proliferative stage begins 3-5 days post-injury. Fibroblasts migrate to the wound along fibrin strands synthesizing a collagen matrix, which increases wound strength.
  • The collagen matrix remodels to form thicker, stronger fibers over weeks to months. The resulting scar is about 80% as strong as the original tissue.

Traumatic wounds are seen in exotic animals, and are particularly common in wildlife patients. Proper initial management of the wound is critical for a successful outcome and rapid healing, and an understanding of anatomy of the skin and physiology of wound healing is necessary for effective treatment . . .

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To cite this page:

Pollock C. Principles of wound healing: Anatomy and physiology. April 27, 2010. LafeberVet Web site. Available at