What is a Wound Vac and how Does it Work?

By Nursing Home Law Center

Wound VacA wound vac is a device that drains seeping liquid from a wounds such as bed sores by forming an airtight cover and pumping the liquid out. Wound vacs can reduce the incidence of infection and aid in the healing process.

What is a Bed Sore?

A bed sore, also known as a decubitus ulcer or a pressure sore, is an open wound on the body. Due to immobility, a patient may lie or sit with pressure on the same part of the body, compressed by the body's weight. This pressure cuts off the flow of oxygen to that area and the tissue and skin begin to starve and die.

Eventually a wound opens up, shallow at first and later becoming broader and deeper. The open wound is extremely painful and at high risk of infection. If the sore is allowed to progress the tissue can degrade so much that the muscle and bone are visible in the wound.

Gangrene and osteomyelitis are serious risks at that point. The wound may seep liquid and emit a foul odor. When a bed sore gets this serious, the patient will require surgery to save his or her life.

Where do Bed Sores Tend to Form?

Some areas of the body are more prone to form bed sores than others. Bony protuberances often bear more of the body's weight than parts that don't protrude. These areas are prime candidates for developing bed sores.

Body parts with little fat are also at greater risk. Fat can cushion the weight of the body when a body part is under pressure during long periods of immobility. This means that body parts without much fat, like bony protuberances, are at the greatest risk of forming bed sores.

Any part of the body can develop a bed sore depending on the conditions, but some body parts are more prone to it than others. The areas where bed sores most often develop are the following:

  • Back of head
  • Ankles
  • Heels
  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Knees
  • Spine

What are the Treatment Options for Bed Sores?

Treatment for bed sores grows increasingly difficult when treatment doesn't begin at an early stage. Only a doctor can determine the proper course of action, and will do so according to the particular factors of a case. His list of options includes:

  • Debridement. Debridement is the elimination of infected, unhealthy or dead tissue from a wound, such as a bed sore. This removal can be surgical, biological, chemical, autolytic or mechanical. A doctor, in consultation with the patient, will decide on which method is most appropriate.
  • Wound vacs. Treatment may call for the use of a wound vac in conjunction with debridement to treat more advanced bed sores. An airtight seal covers the wound and then a pump drains the wound of fluid. Wound vacs increase the rate of healing as well as reduce the incidence of infection in patients with bed sores.
  • Flap reconstruction surgery. This is an invasive measure used in more extreme cases of bed sores. A surgeon takes healthy skin from another part of the body and transfers it to the bed sore to cover it. Because skin that has died will not grow back, this is necessary to complete the healing process.
  • Colostomy. A colostomy bag collects human waste. For immobile patients, this prevents them from soiling themselves, which can increase the likelihood of bed sores forming as well as infect the bed sore once a wound has opened up.
  • Amputation. As a last resort, a surgeon may choose to remove a body part, either partially or entirely, because necrotic tissue has jeopardized the life of the patient.

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