What is negative pressure wound therapy?

Negative Pressure Wound Therapy
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Vacuum-assisted closure for wound healing: Overview

When you have a wound that is hard to close, your doctor may treat it with vacuum-assisted closure (VAC).

VAC uses negative pressure (suction) to help bring the edges of your wound together. It also removes fluid and dead tissue from the wound area. And it can help tissue grow faster. A special covering is put over the wound. Then a tube connects the covering to a machine that creates the suction.

VAC doesn't hurt. You may feel a mild pulling on the wound when treatment first starts. Your doctor will let you know what to watch for and what to do if you have a problem with the machine.

You'll use VAC 24 hours a day, which will limit what you can do while the wound heals. How long you'll need VAC will depend on the size and type of wound you have.

How can you care for yourself while using vacuum-assisted closure for wound healing?

  • A home health care worker may come to your home or you may go to your doctor's office a few times a week to have the dressing changed. You may need it changed more often if there is a lot of drainage.
  • Your doctor will give you information on what you can and can't do. This depends on where your wound is located. Your activities may be limited during the time you're using vacuum-assisted closure.
  • You will be able to take sponge baths. Don't shower or take baths unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Vacuum-assisted closure for wound healing: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a sudden increase in bleeding.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The wound starts bleeding.
  • The bandage comes off. Cover the area with a sterile bandage until you can see your doctor or your home health care worker comes by.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the wound.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The noise the machine makes changes or gets very loud. This may mean the seal is broken or the machine is not producing enough suction.

How is vacuum-assisted closure for wound healing done?

In vacuum-assisted closure (VAC), a machine creates suction to bring the edges of the wound together.

  • A special piece of foam or cotton gauze fits over your wound. This covers and protects the wound. A clear bandage (film dressing) goes several inches beyond the foam or gauze dressing to create a seal for the vacuum.
  • A tube connects the foam to a small machine called the therapy unit. The therapy unit creates the suction.
  • You use the machine 24 hours a day.

The VAC system may be carried around (portable) or may stay in one place (stationary).

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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