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Use of Incisional Negative Pressure Wound Therapy on Closed Median Sternal Incisions after Cardiothoracic Surgery: Clinical Evidence and Consensus Recommendations

Pascal M. Dohmen, Thanasie Markou, Richard Ingemansson, Heinrich Rotering, Jean M. Hartman, Richard van Valen, Maaike Brunott, Patrique Segers

Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Med Sci Monit 2014; 20:1814-1825

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.891169

Available online:

Published: 2014-10-04

Abstract: Negative pressure wound therapy is a concept introduced initially to assist in the treatment of chronic open wounds. Recently, there has been growing interest in using the technique on closed incisions after surgery to prevent potentially severe surgical site infections and other wound complications in high-risk patients. Negative pressure wound therapy uses a negative pressure unit and specific dressings that help to hold the incision edges together, redistribute lateral tension, reduce edema, stimulate perfusion, and protect the surgical site from external infectious sources. Randomized, controlled studies of negative pressure wound therapy for closed incisions in orthopedic settings (which also is a clean surgical procedure in absence of an open fracture) have shown the technology can reduce the risk of wound infection, wound dehiscence, and seroma, and there is accumulating evidence that it also improves wound outcomes after cardiothoracic surgery. Identifying at-risk individuals for whom prophylactic use of negative pressure wound therapy would be most cost-effective remains a challenge; however, several risk-stratification systems have been proposed and should be evaluated more fully. The recent availability of a single-use, closed incision management system offers surgeons a convenient and practical means of delivering negative pressure wound therapy to their high-risk patients, with excellent wound outcomes reported to date. Although larger, randomized, controlled studies will help to clarify the precise role and benefits of such a system in cardiothoracic surgery, limited initial evidence from clinical studies and from the authors’ own experiences appears promising. In light of the growing interest in this technology among cardiothoracic surgeons, a consensus meeting, which was attended by a group of international experts, was held to review existing evidence for negative pressure wound therapy in the prevention of wound complications after surgery and to provide recommendations on the optimal use of negative pressure wound therapy on closed median sternal incisions after cardiothoracic surgery.

Keywords: Evidence-Based Medicine, Consensus, Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy, Sternum - surgery, Thoracic Surgery