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What is Wound Repair?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
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If you’ve ever had a cut on your skin and watched as it slowly repaired itself and was replaced by new skin, then you have already observed the process of wound repair. Wound repair, which is sometimes called wound healing, is a biological process during which the body repairs itself after an injury. Wound repair takes place within the skin, but in many other organs as well.

A wound is repaired in three phases: the inflammatory phase, the proliferative phase, and the remodeling phase. It is important to note that these phases overlap. Some people believe that there is a fourth phase which comes before the inflammatory phase. This phase is the hemostasis phase, which is the period of time when the blood clots to stop active bleeding from the wound.

In the inflammatory phase of wound repair, bacteria and any foreign matter that has entered the wound are fought off by the white blood cells in the blood. This process is meant to decrease the risk of infection. However, depending on the strength and amount of bacteria that enters the wound, infection may still occur.

The proliferative phase is the phase during which the skin or organ that has been affected by the wound begins to rebuild itself. New tissue and blood vessels are formed. Collagen is also deposited in the affected area. In this phase, the wound begins to contract and the skin or organ that is being repaired begins to return to its normal size.

In the remodeling phase, the collagen that was deposited in the wound is remodeled. This is when the area that was wounded begins to look more like it did before the injury or incision. However, depending on the severity of the wound, the affected area may never look exactly as it did prior to the injury. A finger that sustained a paper cut, for example, may look exactly as it did once the wound has been repaired. A more serious injury like a deep scrape, however, might result in a scar.

The process of wound repair is very fragile. If a wound is reopened or exposed to bacteria, the process may be interrupted or compromised. It is for this very reason that it is recommended to protect wounds by using clean bandages and to have a medical professional assess any large wound or wound that seems to be infected or otherwise compromised.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Mar 25, 2012

@cloudel-- I have a large scar too, from an injury I had when I was younger. I've always hated the sight of it and even considered cosmetic surgery.

But I learned something from my doctor that makes me think differently about scarring now. My doctor said that scarring is probably due to the extraordinary effort that our body and skin have put forward to heal our wound.

Our body wants to heal wounds as quickly as possible so that they don't get infected and become detrimental to our overall health. So it's working overtime to keep germs out, keep the inflammation down and build new skin cells quickly. Since so many things are going on and all of it is happening so fast, the outcome is that the new skin doesn't look exactly the same as it did before.

This makes a lot of sense, because only the more serious wounds like surgical wounds (which could pose a risk to our health) usually leave scars. If it weren't for this amazing capacity to repair and rebuild our wounds, most of us would probably die from infections.

So if you think about it this way, a scar is such a small price to pay! I've learned to accept my scar and I don't think I will be doing anything to change it.

By turquoise — On Mar 24, 2012

@anamur-- It could be that the moisture is delaying the proliferative phase. Usually, the wound scabs over and rebuilding of tissue takes place under the scab. If the scab is not formed because of moisture, it might be delaying the rebuilding phase.

There is actually a wound repair method called moisture wound therapy and they use bandaging methods similar to what you do to keep the wound moist. Bu this is not appropriate for all wounds. It's usually used for burn wounds. I guess your scratches respond better to a dry environment and repair themselves more easily that way.

By serenesurface — On Mar 24, 2012

Why does wound repair and regeneration happen more slowly when the wound is moist?

I get lots of little scratches thanks to my cat who likes to use her claws when she's playing with me. When I get a scratch, I get really scared of infections. After I clean the scratch, I put antibacterial ointment on it and use a band-aid to cover it up.

However, this keeps the scratch really moist and it seems to take a lot longer to heal. Even after three days, it doesn't seem to have improved at all. Only when I leave it dry and open, it seems like it's repairing itself.

Why is this?

I wouldn't mind leaving it open and dry, but I feel like I have no protection against infections that way.

By cloudel — On Mar 24, 2012

Most of the wounds I have had in my life have been minor and have healed totally. However, I do have one that resulted in a scar that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I was climbing my slick porch steps on a rainy day when I slipped. My shin hit the corner of the brick step, and I felt the worst pain I had ever experienced up to that point in my life.

I was only nine years old at the time. I had the darkest bruise I had ever seen, and it lasted a long time.

Even after the discoloration faded, the scar remained. A chunk of skin was missing, and even twenty years later, I can see a dent in my shin.

By StarJo — On Mar 23, 2012

I think that being a hemophiliac would be so terrifying. Just knowing that every time you injure yourself, even in the smallest way, you could bleed to death, would be so hard to live with.

My nephew was diagnosed with this clotting disorder last year. He just had a small paper cut, but nothing could stop the bleeding. He ended up in the emergency room just because of this tiny wound!

My sister lives in fear for his life. Children are so prone to wounds, and when a kid's body lacks the ability to repair itself, you have to be so careful and watchful of them.

By Oceana — On Mar 22, 2012

@kylee07drg – I have always heard that when your skin starts to itch severely, this means it is healing. It's kind of odd that your body gives you that strong temptation to scratch, when that would be detrimental to the healing process.

I remember when I cut my arm on the sharp edge of counter top. When it started to heal, the itching got so bad that I had to apply lidocaine to completely numb the area. It was the only way I could resist the urge.

I do whatever it takes to let my body repair itself. I don't want to interrupt the process in any way.

By kylee07drg — On Mar 22, 2012

Wound repair and regeneration has always fascinated me. As a child, I got more than my share of cuts and scrapes, and I would watch the different stages of repair with interest.

With scrapes, there was always a point at which the little dots of wounded skin turned to scabs. This was the itchiest stage. I had to try and resist the urge to scratch, because this would reopen the wound and start the process all over again.

I loved the point where my wound was almost healed. I could still see faint traces of the injury, but they were fading fast. In a day or two, there would be no evidence left of the wound.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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