Negative Pressure Therapy Treats Infected Wounds Faster, Finds Study

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) has a definitive role in wound healing. This therapeutic technique uses a vacuum dressing to promote healing in acute or chronic wounds and enhance healing of second and third degree burns. A thesis submitted by Lund University in Sweden found that NPWT can help in faster, better healing of infected wounds. During the first extensive evaluation of negative pressure techniques to treat infected wounds, this thesis compares the use of negative pressure wound therapy for infected wounds at the groin after vascular surgery with a previously established method: alginate dressings.

This therapy involves:

  • Placing a foam sponge inside the cleaned wound
  • Covering it with a tightly sealed plastic film
  • Attaching a portable vacuum pump through a small opening
  • Sucking up all the excess exudates
  • Allowing the wound to gradually contract during the time of healing

According to the lead author of the study, “On an average the wound healing time was almost cut in half for patients who received negative pressure wound therapy – from 104 days to 57. The in-hospital care time was also reduced by a week, to an average of 13 days compared to 20.”

Though the groin is a commonly used point of entry during vascular surgery that allows surgeons to reach several vital bodily systems and organs, there is an increased risk of infection in this area because of its proximity to the intestinal bacterial flora. Refractory infections at the groin can in serious cases lead to amputation of the patient’s leg or even death.

The thesis points out certain advantages of NPWT such as – shorter wound healing time, fewer dressing changes, opportunity for earlier discharge from the hospital, cost-effective and timesaving for staff. Other comparative studies based on patient data have found that the patients wanted to receive more knowledge and be more prepared on how to care for themselves after being discharged from the hospital.

NPWT Documentation Requirements

A proper written order is important before NPWT begins. For the coverage to continue, a licensed medical professional must directly assess the wound(s) being treated with the NPWT pump, and supervise or directly perform the NPWT dressing changes. A customized wound EMR with dedicated nurses’ and physicians’ module can be of great help in effective documentation of every stage of the wound from the perspective of the nurse and the physician. Wound assessment templates in such advanced software can help physicians enter their observations accurately and quickly. Basic wound assessment skills are also required for documentation of NPWT applications. Patient’s medical records must be regularly updated with details such as quantitative measurements of wound characteristics including wound length and width (surface area) and current progress in plan of care. Also document the amount of exudate in the exudate collection chamber/canister, and whether it was changed, how the patient tolerated the procedure and the amount of time taken to apply the therapy.