What is a “wound vac”?
Wound vac technology is a dressing that has battery powered suction (vacuum) to aid in the wound healing process. It places a constant suction power on your incision site. The dressing is applied under sterile conditions in the operating room and remains in place for 7 days.
How does a wound vac work?
The dressing itself seals off the wound from the outside world, keeping bacteria away from your incision. This helps keep the incision clean and reduce your chance of infection. Any drainage that otherwise would have leaked out of the wound or collected under the skin is gently suctioned out and contained within the device. Wound drainage is one of the main factors leading to surgical site infections and complications after surgery. The suction also helps to promote blood flow and healing factors to the incision site, speeding up wound healing and promoting a smaller scar formation.
Why do you use a wound vac?
Wound vac technology was initially used for large open wounds sustained during major trauma. After years of use in the trauma world, we began to recognize how powerful of a tool it was in promoting healing and preventing infection. Eventually the technology started to be used on high risk surgeries with incisions that were closed (skin sutured together, not open).
These incisions were in places that have a high rate of infection. The wound vactechnology had a remarkable effect on infection rates and healing times after these surgeries. More recently surgeons have become interested in the role that this technology can play after knee or hip replacement. Studies have found lower infection rates, fewer wound complications, and faster healing as a result. While this technology is still cutting edge and being further researched, it is undeniably safe and been proven to work.
Does it hurt?
There is no discomfort from the device whatsoever and the suction power is not
strong enough to notice. Rarely, people can have a reaction to the adhesive part of the
dressing (as people can have to any postoperative dressing). While this is
exceedingly uncommon, the dressing can be removed in favor of a more traditional
dressing if necessary.
How do I manage the dressing?
The dressing simply stays in place for 7 days. There is a cord attached to the dressing that runs to the battery pack. The battery pack is small and easily fits into your pocket or can be clipped to a belt. An ace bandage can be wrapped around your knee to hide the dressing if you prefer it not show. You may shower immediately, but the battery pack must be protected from getting wet. After 7 days the battery runs out and the entire wound vac dressing is removed and discarded. Usually, no further dressing is required. However, if
there is still any wound drainage, you will place a clean dry dressing over the wound and change daily as instructed. If the wound remains dry, you may continue to shower with the dressing off. There will be dissolvable stitches under the skin, with no staples or stitches that need to be removed. This makes your postoperative care more comfortable and convenient.