Negative Pressure-Assisted Wound Therapy (wound VAC), also called vacuum therapy, vacuum sealing, or topical negative pressure therapy, is a non-invasive therapy used for deep acute or chronic wounds. It utilizes negative pressure to suction fluids from the wound and helps bring the edges of the wound together. NPWT has been proven to speed the wound healing process, reduce pain and improve the patient’s quality of life.
How Does NPWT Promote Wound Healing?
NPWT can promote wound healing by:
- gently removing excess fluid from the wound over time
- reducing swelling (inflammation)
- increasing blood flow, thus increasing the amount of oxygen to the wound
- reducing or removing bacteria from the wound
- encouraging a moist wound healing environment
- stimulating the growth of new tissue, pulling the edges of the wound together, thus decreasing wound size over time
What Does NPWT Look Like?
NPWT is a wound management system that consists of a disposable or reusable negative pressure device. It consists of:
- A wound filler dressing, such as a gauze dressing or foam, put directly on the wound.
- A transparent adhesive drape/film covering that seals the dressing and wound.
- A drainage tube that connects the transparent film to a disposable or reusable device.
- A fluid containment mechanism, such as a canister, to collect drainage (or a highly absorbent dressing.)
- A source of negative pressure (e.g., pump).
The components of NPWT may differ by manufacturer and product.
What Are the Different Types of NPWT?
There are different types of NPWT. Your doctor will determine what type will work best for your wound.
- Closed incision NPWT
- A topical NPWT dressing is placed over a closed incision (with sutures or staples) to help prevent the incision from dehiscing. Most closed incision NPWT devices are for one-time use (disposable) and usually last about 7 days.
- Open wound NPWT:
- This is usually a reusable device that uses a wound filler, such gauze or foam. It is put directly on the wound and held in place by a transparent adhesive film (which creates a seal). This device is used until the wound closes (for several weeks or months) and may run all the time or intermittently. Dressings are changed every 48 to 72 hours depending on the wound. The NPWT device is portable so you can carry it everywhere you go.
What Type of Wounds Need NPWT?
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NPWT is used for:
- acute wounds
- traumatic wounds
- dehisced wounds
- chronic wounds (wounds that are not healing properly over time)
- flaps and grafts
- certain post-operative surgical incisions
- partial-thickness burns
- stage II to stage IV pressure injuries.
Does NPWT hurt?
NPWT dressing changes may be uncomfortable, but they are generally considered safe if used following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medicine to help prevent or reduce pain during the dressing change or application.
Who Can Help with NPWT (Wound VAC) Care?
NPWT dressings are changed by licensed trained professionals. It is important to see a wound care clinic to help with NPWT care because the use of a NPWT device is not recommended in certain situations (contraindications and risks). Wound care specialists will also ensure:
- proper preparation of the wound before application of NPWT
- appropriate NPWT device selection for your wound,
- and proper monitoring of your wound healing.
If you need help with your NPWT (Wound VAC) care, we can help. Contact us at the location nearest to you to schedule an appointment.