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Wound vac therapy is a treatment used to help wounds heal. This treatment uses a medical device to create a vacuum, or negative pressure, to the wound. Wound vac therapy is also known as negative pressure wound therapy, vacuum-assisted closure, or VAC therapy.
Wound vac therapy is used to treat:
Some patients may need wound vac therapy for a few days. Others may need it for several months. Illness or its treatment can cause wounds to heal slowly. This is known as delayed wound healing. Slowed healing can result in infection and other problems.
During wound vac therapy, a caregiver places a dressing (bandage) over the wound and applies suction with a machine. This therapy helps the healing process because it:
During wound vac therapy, the caregiver:
When the pump suction is on, it removes air from the site of the wound. For most patients, a wound vac does not cause added pain. When the suction starts and the dressing falls inward (collapses), your child may feel a slight pulling sensation. This usually goes away after a few minutes. Some patients may feel pain when the dressing pulls down, but this discomfort is similar to that of other wound-care procedures.
The suction also gently pulls fluid out from the wound. This can help clean the wound and reduce swelling. The fluid passes through the tube and collects in a canister attached to a pump, which stays on until the dressing change. The suction may run all the time (continuous) or only at certain times (cycle). Your care team will decide the amount of negative pressure your child needs.
As the wound heals, the area may become itchy or uncomfortable. Rare risks of wound vac therapy include bleeding or infection.
If your child goes home with a wound vac machine, your care team will teach you how to use the pump. With a portable wound vac machine, patients can do most normal activities. Ask your provider how your child can do daily activities such as showering.
Most at-home (portable) wound vac machines have these main parts:
See the user manual for help using your system. Check the device often and make sure that:
The therapy unit will sound a beep or an alarm if a problem occurs. Most alarms are due to one of the following reasons:
The care team will usually change a full canister at the clinic. They may teach you how to remove and replace the canister if needed. You may also learn how to repair leaks in the drape.
The dressing and tubing should be changed at least once a week (or more often, depending on the wound). Follow your care team’s directions. They may suggest medicine and other ways to manage pain during dressing changes.
Let your care team know if your child's pain or discomfort increases or if there are signs of infection, such as:
Call your doctor if you notice any of the following:
Together does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.
Reviewed: May 2023