Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Biological gerontology

Delayed wound healing in elderly people

Helen A. Thomasona1 and Matthew J. Hardmana1 c1

a1 Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK


Our ability to heal wounds deteriorates with age, leading in many cases to a complete lack of repair and development of a chronic wound. Moreover, as the elderly population continues to grow the prevalence of non-healing chronic wounds is escalating. Cutaneous wound repair occurs through a combination of overlapping phases, including an initial inflammatory response, a proliferative phase and a final remodelling phase. In elderly subjects the inflammatory response is delayed, macrophage and fibroblast function compromised, angiogenesis reduced and re-epithelialization inhibited. Whilst a large body of historic research describes the defective processes that lead to delayed healing, only recently have the molecular mechanisms by which these defects arise begun to be elucidated. Current therapies available for treatment of chronic wounds in elderly people are surprisingly limited and generally ineffective. Thus there is an urgent need to develop new therapeutic strategies based on these recent molecular and cellular insights.

(Online publication November 02 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Matthew Hardman, Faculty of Life Sciences, A.V. Hill Building, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, United Kingdom. Email: