Vacuum-Assisted Closure Therapy

Vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) therapy uses a device that removes fluid and germs from wounds to help them heal. It is used on wounds that cannot be closed with stitches. They often heal slowly. Vacuum-assisted therapy helps the wound stay clean and healthy while the open wound slowly grows back together.

Vacuum-assisted closure therapy uses a bandage (dressing) that is made of foam. It is put inside the wound. Then, a drape is placed over the wound. This drape sticks to your skin to keep air out, and to protect the wound. A tube is hooked up to a small pump and is attached to the drape. The pump sucks out the fluid and germs. Vacuum-assisted closure therapy can also help reduce the bad smell that comes from the wound.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The vacuum pump pulls fluid through the foam dressing. The dressing may wrinkle during this process. The fluid goes into the tube and away from the wound. The fluid then goes into a container. The fluid in the container must be replaced if it is full or at least once a week, even if the container is not full. The pulling from the pump helps to close the wound and bring better circulation to the wound area.  The foam dressing covers and protects the wound. It helps your wound heal faster.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

  • You might feel a little pulling when the pump is on.

  • You might also feel a mild vibrating sensation.  

  • You might feel some discomfort when the dressing is taken off.

CAN I MOVE AROUND WITH VACUUM-ASSISTED CLOSURE THERAPY?

Yes, it has a backup battery which is used when the machine is not plugged in, as long as the battery is working, you can move freely.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS I MUST KNOW?

  • Do not turn off the pump yourself, unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider, such as for bathing.

  • Do not take off the dressing yourself, unless instructed to do so by your caregiver.

  • You can wash or shower with the dressing. However, do not take the pump into the shower. Make sure the wound dressing is protected and covered with plastic. The wound area must stay dry.

  • Do not turn off the pump for more than 2 hours. If the pump is off for more than 2 hours, your nurse must change your dressing.

  • Check frequently that the machine is on, that the machine indicates the therapy is on, and that all clamps are open.

THE ALARM IS SOUNDING! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  • Stay calm.

  • Do not turn off the pump or do anything with the dressing.

  • Call your clinic or caregiver right away if the alarm goes off and you cannot fix the problem. Some reasons the alarm might go off include:

  • The fluid collection container is full.

  • The battery is low.

  • The dressing has a leak.

  • Explain to your caregiver what is happening. Follow the instructions you receive.

WHEN SHOULD I CALL FOR HELP?

  • You have severe pain.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • You have bleeding that will not stop.

  • Your wound smells bad.

  • You have redness, swelling, or fluid leaking from your wound.

  • Your alarm goes off and you do not know what to do.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your wound itches severely.

  • Your dressing changes are often painful or bleeding often occurs.

  • You have diarrhea.

  • You have a sore throat.

  • You have a rash around the dressing or anywhere else on your body.

  • You feel nauseous.

  • You feel dizzy or weak.

  • The VAC machine has been off for more than 2 hours.

HOW DO I GET READY TO GO HOME WITH A PUMP?

A trained caregiver will talk to you and answer your questions about your vacuum-assisted closure therapy before you go home. He or she will explain what to expect. A caregiver will come to your home to apply the pump and care for your wound.  The at-home caregiver will be available for questions and will come back for the scheduled dressing changes, usually every 48-72 hours (or more often for severely infected wounds). Your at-home caregiver will also come if you are having an unexpected problem. If you have questions or do not know what to do when you go home, talk to your healthcare provider.