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The Rollin' RN's

I Need a Wound Vac but What is it?

Have you ever seen a post where someone requires a wound vac, but then find yourself wondering, “what is it anyway?” Not to worry, The Rollin’ RNs are here to break it down for all to understand in case you find yourself at the doctor’s office and in need of one.

Vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) is a method of decreasing air pressure around a wound to assist with healing. It’s also referred to as negative pressure wound therapy. You may hear either term or it may be referred to as simply a wound vac.

During a VAC procedure, a healthcare professional applies a foam bandage over an open wound, and a vacuum pump creates negative pressure around the wound. This means the pressure over the wound is lower than the pressure in the atmosphere. The pressure pulls the edges of the wound together.

In our research, we found wound vacs are used for a variety of situations such as burns, Cesarean delivery (C-section), pressure ulcers, traumatic and surgical wounds.

One study looked at the use of VAC to heal a patient’s ulcer and revealed the use of a wound VAC healed the ulcer in 6 weeks at half the cost of reconstructive surgery.

How Wound VAC Therapy Works:

A VAC therapy system includes a vacuum pump, a special bandage, a canister to collect fluid, and tubing.

A healthcare provider first fits a layer of foam dressing over the wound which is sealed with a thin layer of film. The film has an opening that rubber tubing can fit through to connect to a vacuum pump.

Once connected, the vacuum pump can remove fluids and infections from the wound while helping to pull the edges of the wound together.

A person undergoing VAC therapy wears the device for close to 24 hours per day while they’re healing.

A nurse will change the dressing 2 to 3 times a week, more often if the wound is infected. In some cases, your wound care provider might teach a family member or friend how to change the dressing for you.

Wound VAC Benefits:

Wound VAC has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment option to help treat various types of wounds, and some of the benefits are:

  • decreased swelling and inflammation

  • decreased risk of bacterial infection

  • increased blood flow to the wound

  • decreased overall discomfort

  • less changing of wound dressings compared with other treatments

  • gentle pulling together of the wound’s edges

Some information you should know if you find yourself needing a wound vac:

  • You cannot bathe or swim with a wound VAC dressing. You can, however, disconnect the pump long enough to shower.

  • If the dressing is underwater for long, it may loosen, or the wound may get infected.

  • If an alarm sounds on the pump, there may be a leak in the dressing. Call your home health nurse or the clinic where your dressing is changed and ask them to replace the dressing.

Hopefully, by sharing this information, it will alleviate some fear and provide helpful knowledge if you need the help of a wound vac due to a pressure sore.

It’s all good, so keep on rollin’

Patty, BSN, RNC and Roberta, RN

The Rollin’ RNs ™


What You Need to Know About Vacuum-Assisted Wound Closure (VAC).


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