OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the results of a vacuum-assisted closure device in patients presenting with open high-energy soft tissue injuries.
DESIGN: Consecutive nonrandomized clinical study.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: From August 1999 through October 2000, 21 patients, with 21 high-energy soft tissue wounds (6 tibial, 10 ankle, and 5 with wounds of the forearm, elbow, femur, pelvis, and a below-knee stump) were treated with a vacuum-assisted closure device at a Level 1 trauma center.
INTERVENTION: A negative atmospheric pressure device used for the management of complex open injuries. Infected wounds had dressings changed every 48 hours, whereas all others had dressings changed every 72 to 96 hours.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: The duration of vacuum-assisted closure use, final wound closure outcome, costs versus standard dressing changes or free flaps, and a list of all complications were recorded. All patients were followed for 6 months postcoverage.
RESULTS: Patients averaged 4.1 sponge changes, 77% performed at bedside, with the device used an average of 19.3 days. Twelve wounds (57%) required either no further treatment or a split-thickness skin graft, and 9 (43%) required a free tissue transfer.
CONCLUSIONS: The vacuum-assisted closure appears to be a viable adjunct for the treatment of open high-energy injuries. Application can be performed as a bedside procedure but additional soft tissue reconstruction may be needed for definitive coverage. This device does not replace the need for formal debridement of necrotic tissue, but it may avoid the need for a free tissue transfer in some patients with large traumatic wounds.
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