Wounds & Wound Healing – Part III

In Part II of our short series on wound types and wound healing, we looked at the complications that can occur in open wounds, including infections.

In this final post in our three-part series, we’ll take a brief look at NPWT – negative pressure wound therapy – and how it can be used to treat complex open wounds.

Open Wounds and Negative Pressure Wound Therapy (NPWT)

As we noted in Part II of our wound care series, in open wounds, the skin is broken or damaged in some way, leaving the underlying area open to the air. This leaves the body exposed to potential contaminants such as dirt and bacteria, which can result in infection. Left untreated – or treated incorrectly – these infections can lead to life-threatening complications.

Over the past 20 years, negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) has become a leading technology in the treatment of open wounds. To heal properly, open wounds need just the right amount of moisture, to be protected from infection, and – in larger, more complex wounds – help in bringing tissues back together while the skin closes. NPWT, when used properly, does all of these things.

Negative pressure wound therapy works by applying carefully controlled suction to an open wound using a special vacuum pump, hence the name “wound vac” for the control unit. The suction delivers negative pressure evenly through a dressing, such as foam or gauze.

Drainage from the wound is removed using tubing, which adheres to the dressing and is deposited into a collection canister. The dressing, suction and fluid removal also help protect the area from outside contaminants, pulling them away from the wound.

During this process, NWPT increases blood flow to the wound area and provides oxygen to the wound while removing excess fluid, so that the wound has just the right amount of moisture and can close and heal properly.

Use of NPWT

Negative pressure wound therapy can be used for a wide variety of complex open wounds, including:

  • Traumatic wounds, such as combat or gunshot wounds

  • Post-surgical wounds

  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)

  • Diabetic ulcers

  • Skin grafts

When used correctly, negative pressure wound therapy serves as a powerful wound healing tool. However, it is not the right choice for every patient and it is imperative that medical staff be carefully and properly trained in the use of NPWT equipment and procedures.

Even an incorrect application of NPWT dressing can put patients at risk. Healthcare staff must ensure that when NPWT is used, the appropriate dressing and correct suction settings are in place and that they are frequently monitoring both the patient and the wound.

For more information on the proper use of NPWT and licensed training for medical staff, please contact us.