Vacuum-Assisted Closure for Wound Healing: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

When you have a wound that is hard to close your doctor may treat it with vacuum-assisted closure (VAC).

VAC uses negative pressure (suction) to help bring the edges of your wound together. It also removes fluid and dead tissue from the wound area.

In VAC:

  • A special piece of foam or cotton gauze fits over your wound. This covers and protects the wound. A clear bandage (film dressing) goes 8 to 10 centimetres beyond the foam or gauze dressing to create a seal for the vacuum.
  • A tube connects the foam to a small machine called the therapy unit. The therapy unit creates the suction.
  • The VAC system may be carried around (portable) or may stay in one place (stationary).

VAC does not hurt. You may feel a mild pulling on the wound when treatment first starts.

How long you need VAC depends on the size and type of wound you have and how well the VAC works. You will be limited in what you can do while the wound heals. You will use VAC 24 hours a day.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • A home health care worker will come to your home a few times a week to change the bandage and check the machine. You may need it changed more often if there is a lot of drainage.
  • Your doctor will give you information on what you can and can't do. This depends on where your wound is located. Your activities may be limited during the time you're using VAC.
  • You will be able to take sponge baths. Don't shower or take baths unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a lot of bleeding or see a sudden change in the colour or texture of the drainage.
  • The wound splits open and organs under the skin can be seen (evisceration).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The wound starts bleeding.
  • The bandage comes off. Cover the area with a sterile bandage until you can see your doctor or your home health care worker comes by.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the wound.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The noise the machine makes changes or gets very loud. This may mean the seal is broken or the machine is not producing enough suction.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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