Acute wounds normally heal in a very orderly and efficient manner characterized by four distinct, but overlapping phases: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation and remodeling. Specific biological markers characterize healing of acute wounds. Likewise, unique biologic markers also characterize pathologic responses resulting in fibrosis and chronic non-healing ulcers. This review describes the major biological processes associated with both normal and pathologic healing. The normal healing response begins the moment the tissue is injured. As the blood components spill into the site of injury, the platelets come into contact with exposed collagen and other elements of the extracellular matrix. This contact triggers the platelets to release clotting factors as well as essential growth factors and cytokines such as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta). Following hemostasis, the neutrophils then enter the wound site and begin the critical task of phagocytosis to remove foreign materials, bacteria and damaged tissue. As part of this inflammatory phase, the macrophages appear and continue the process of phagocytosis as well as releasing more PDGF and TGF beta. Once the wound site is cleaned out, fibroblasts migrate in to begin the proliferative phase and deposit new extracellular matrix. The new collagen matrix then becomes cross-linked and organized during the final remodeling phase. In order for this efficient and highly controlled repair process to take place, there are numerous cell-signaling events that are required. In pathologic conditions such as non-healing pressure ulcers, this efficient and orderly process is lost and the ulcers are locked into a state of chronic inflammation characterized by abundant neutrophil infiltration with associated reactive oxygen species and destructive enzymes. Healing proceeds only after the inflammation is controlled. On the opposite end of the spectrum, fibrosis is characterized by excessive matrix deposition and reduced remodeling. Often fibrotic lesions are associated with increased densities of mast cells. By understanding the functional relationships of these biological processes of normal compared to abnormal wound healing, hopefully new strategies can be designed to treat the pathological conditions.