Vacuum-Assisted Closure Therapy Home Guide

Vacuum-assisted closure therapy (VAC therapy) is a device that helps wounds heal. It is used on wounds that cannot be closed with stitches. They often heal slowly. VAC therapy helps the wound stay clean and healthy while its edges slowly grow back together.

VAC 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 (adhesive) to keep air out. A tube is hooked up to a small pump and is attached to the drape. The pump sucks fluid and germs from the wound. It can also decrease any bad smell that comes from the wound.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

VAC therapy is usually safe to use at home. Your skin may get sore from the adhesive drape. That is the most common problem. However, more serious problems can develop, such as:

  • Bleeding. This can happen if the dressing in the wound comes into contact with blood vessels. A little bleeding may occur when the dressing is being changed. This is normal now and then. Major bleeding can happen if a large blood vessel breaks. This is more likely if you are taking blood-thinning medicine. Emergency surgery may be needed.

  • Infection. This can happen if the dressing has an air leak that is not repaired within a couple of hours.

  • Dehydration. This can happen if the pump sucks out too much body fluid.

DRESSING CHANGES

Your dressing will have to be changed. Sometimes this is needed once a day. Other times, a dressing change must be done 3 times a week. How often you change your dressing will depend on what your wound is like. A trained caregiver will most likely change the dressing. However, a family member or friend may be trained to change the dressing. Below are steps to change a dressing in order to prevent an infection. The steps apply to you or the person that changes your dressing.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after each dressing change.

  • Wear gloves and protective clothing. This may include eye protection.

  • Do not allow anyone to change your dressing if they have an infection or a skin condition. Even a small cut can be a problem.

To change the dressing:

  • Turn off the pump.

  • Take off the adhesive drape.

  • Disconnect the tube from the dressing.

  • Take out the dressing that is inside the wound. If the dressing sticks, use a germ-free (sterile), saltwater solution to wet the dressing. This helps it come out more easily. If it hurts when the dressing is changed, take pain medicine 30 minutes before the dressing change.

  • Cleanse the wound with normal saline or sterile water.

  • Apply a skin barrier film to the skin that will be covered with the drape. This will protect the skin.

  • Put a new dressing into the wound.

  • Apply a new drape and tube.

  • Replace the container in the pump that collects fluid if it is full. Do this at least once per week.

  • Turn the pump back on.

  • Your doctor will decide what setting of suction is best. Do not change the settings on the machine without talking to your nurse or doctor.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • The VAC pump has an alarm. It goes off if there are any problems such as a leak.

  • Ask your caregiver what to do if the alarm goes off.

  • Call your caregiver right away if the alarm goes off and you cannot fix the problem.

  • Do not turn off the pump for more than 2 hours.

  • Check your wound carefully at each dressing change for signs of infection. Watch for redness, swelling, or any fluid leaking from the wound. If you develop an infection:

  • You may have to stop VAC therapy.

  • The wound will need to be cleaned and washed out.

  • You will have to take antibiotic medicine.

  • Ask your caregiver what activities you should or should not do while you are getting VAC therapy. This will depend on your particular wound.

  • Ask if it is okay to turn off the pump so you can take a shower. If it is okay, make sure the wound is covered with plastic. The wound area must stay dry.

  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.

  • Eat foods that contain a lot of protein. Examples are meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, and peas. Protein can help your wound heal.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your wound itches or hurts.

  • Dressing changes are often painful or bleeding often occurs.

  • You have a headache.

  • You have diarrhea.

  • You have a sore throat.

  • You have a rash.

  • You feel nauseous.

  • You feel dizzy or weak.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have very bad pain.

  • 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.