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Conventional treatment of complex, nonresolving empyemas after an episode of pneumonia or a chest operation often requires an open-window thoracostomy. This necessitates frequent, often painful dressing changes and is associated with prolonged hospitalization. The wound is often malodorous, causing significant social distress to patients and unquestionably affects their quality of life. We assessed the value of using vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) therapy in managing patients with a persistent infected pleural space. The study included 10 patients. All patients signed an informed consent and were debriefed before the procedure. An empyema developed in 1 patient after an episode of pneumonia. The other 9 had recently undergone a thoracic surgical procedure. All patients underwent initial open drainage of the pleural cavity and debridement. A VAC therapy system was then inserted intraoperatively or on the first postoperative day. The patients were discharged home with a portable VAC therapy system in situ. Subsequent dressing changes were managed by tissue-viability nurses in the community, without the need for further anesthesia or analgesia. Over a period of time, the cavity was sterilized and eventually obliterated spontaneously. All patients were mobilized early and fast-tracked through the hospital. This prevented the need for daily dressing changes; hence, minimizing the disruption of normal activities and reducing the need for nursing care. Overall, the length of hospitalization was shorter, and the VAC therapy facilitated closure of the infected wound cavity. The use of the VAC therapy system negated the need for a second surgical procedure to close the wound cavity. None of the patients reported pain, odor, or inconvenience associated with the VAC therapy system. Our observations suggest that the use of VAC therapy to treat such patients is safe, facilitates early discharge and recovery, and offers a "civilized," cost-effective treatment in a community setting. Copyright © 2012 The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Shah S S Begum, Kostas Papagiannopoulos. The use of vacuum-assisted wound closure therapy in thoracic operations. The Annals of thoracic surgery. 2012 Dec;94(6):1835-9; discussion 1839-40

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PMID: 23122932

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