Negative pressure therapy: theory and practice


Michael V. Schintler, Klinische Abteilung für Plastische, Ästhetische und Rekonstruktive Chirurgie, Medizinische Universität Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 29, A-8036 Graz, Austria.



Negative pressure (wound) therapy, synonymous with topical negative pressure or vacuum therapy mainly cited as branded VAC® (vacuum-assisted closure) therapy, is a mode of therapy used to encourage wound healing. It is used both as primary treatment of chronic and complex wounds and as an adjunct for temporary closure and wound bed preparation preceding surgical procedures such as skin grafts and flap surgery. The device has come into wide and successful use, although the physiological basis of its effect is not yet fully understood, and with a delay, increasingly evidence-based data become available. A meta-analysis was made of peer-reviewed publications (PubMed–Medline) chosen on the basis of inclusion of the terms randomized clinical trial, vacuum-assisted closure, and topical negative pressure. Scientific data were evaluated from experimental animal studies, randomized clinical trials, observations of clinical applications, and case reports on all known effects of VAC therapy. Systematic analysis of the data shows efficacy concerning induction of wound healing mechanisms, especially in the early stage. Increased perfusion can be considered proven. Data analysis shows positive efficacy for treatment of infection. Although this therapy appears effective and its superiority to conventional techniques has been demonstrated, there are still some critical votes concerning efficacy. Because its mechanisms of action remain unclear, and because there is still some gap between evidence-based data and the excellent clinical results, further prospective, randomized, blinded studies are needed. Even so, we conclude that vacuum therapy, used when indicated and especially by experienced surgeons, is an excellent tool to support wound healing. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.