The Healing Process
When healthy, the body heals itself in 4 consecutive steps:
- Hemostasis & Coagulation: the primary focus for this step is to reduce blood loss. This is done by the formation of a blood clot, creating a sort of plug in the blood vessel. The clot is a result of an accumulation of platelets, that are meshed with a protein called fibrin.
- Inflammation: Once the wound has been plugged, the body proceeds to “cleaning out” any foreign entities; these are known as pathogens. The removal of pathogens is overseen by macrophages. Simultaneously, the repair of the damaged tissue begins. Platelets are activated and growth factors are released, that in turn signal and recruit the necessary cells at the wound site. A process known as vasodilation also takes place, which increased the blood flow to the affected area, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrient, and therefore favouring wound healing.
- Proliferative & Migration: the cells recruited by the growth factors get to work; new tissue is formed, blood vessels are grown, the skin structure is restored. Neutrophils are recruited to help with the immune defence by removing dead tissue and pathogens, and simultaneously support wound repair by promoting collagen formation. During this stage, a temporary matrix is created to provide structure to the reconstruction. An important aspect to remember is the layer of cells that covers the wound, which act as a barrier to any foreign bodies and provides the wound with protection.
- Remodelling: once the wound has been filled in, the body then progressively breaks down and rebuilds the new tissue, to improve its overall structure and strength. Fibroblasts, which were recruited in the previous step to deposit collagen, will gradually replace the temporary structure built in the previous step with a more layered and complete structure.