What Is A Medical Wound Vac?


What is a medical wound vac?  When I was in rehab (see my story) I had to have a  Medical Wound Vac to help my broken ankle wound heal.  I suffered from a leg bone that poked through the skin due to a horrible accident.  In the process of surgery, the doctor was unable to grasp any skin to cover a portion of the hole that had been made due to the force of the bone popping through the skin..

Consequently, after surgery,  there was a hole about the size of a nickel that was not covered by any skin.  Until that healed over with new skin, the wound was open, with chances for infection setting in.

About 5 weeks after  my ankle  accident, the Dr finally ordered a wound vac for me. He felt it would help the healing of the skin and possibly stimulate new skin growth.

The purpose of a wound vac is to eliminate any fluid building up inside the wound and then becoming infected.

My wound vac pump was rather cumbersome in size, however today they have some that the pump is relatively small.  This picture shows the flat adhesive waterproof dressing, the cannula, and the thick silver foam dressing.

A wound vac  consists of

  • A pump AND canula,
  • Silver Foam Dressing,
  • Adhesive Border Sterile Waterproof  Dressing

The Negative wound care therapy process:

The waterproof dressing is applied around the wound, leaving only the wound exposed.  In my case, my leg and ankle were covered by the waterproof adhesive plastic-like dressing.  All but the wound is covered by the adhesive plastic.

This is the most time consuming because a hole has to be cut to expose the wound. The nurse almost has to be an artist to sculpt such a hole. The waterproofing cannot have any leaks where air can get in and achieving a vacuum is the prime target.

Then the Silver Foam Dressing is cut to cover the wound itself, and then a strip about an inch wide is cut to form a strip to wherever the vacuum will attach.  The decision as to where to attach the vacuum is made by the nurse the wound vac dressing on.

The waterproofing went clear up to my knee. I worried that the skin under that clear plastic adhesive dressing would die and there would be worse troubles.  What a relief when the nurse changed the dressing the first time and all was fine.

For a couple of weeks, the cannula went down inside my boot and attached near my ankle.  This caused some consternation for me because the cannula tube left a deep indentation in my leg where the boot was tightened over the top of it.  

Then a new nurse began applying the dressing and took the foam out above the top of my boot.  That was a much better solution.

In my case, the foam went nearly up to my knee. That caused me to not be able to bend my knee and was highly uncomfortable.  This had to be adjusted until she was satisfied as was I.

The foam was then covered with another layer of the waterproofing. An exit hole was cut where the vacuum was attached forming a tight seal so the vacuum could pull fluid from the wound through the foam dressing and out, away from the wound.  This keeps the wound free from body fluids making a better environment for healing. 

The foam is

  • Antimicrobial,
  • Non-Stick Padding,
  • Sterile,
  • Highly Absorbent &
  • Comfortable

Once the vacuum is attached, the 3/4 inch high foam is sucked down to be very flattened.  It is sort of like after you put sweaters or blankets in a plastic bag and then suck the air out of them.  They flatten right down. This foam does the same thing.

That wound vac is a marvelous creation

The war in Afganistan and Iraq caused the need for a number of modern medical inventions.  Years ago, I would have lost my leg because of infection.  As it was I nearly lost it, but for the help of the medical wound vac, I would have.  I could show you pictures of the wound and of the healing process both   before, during, and after the wound vac was used, but they are too gross.

Even with the wound vac, the healing was extremely slow.  So much so that the orthopedic doctor did not hold any hope for it healing once infection manifested itself.

He wasn’t even concerned all those 9 weeks while the wound vac was on, whether my ankle bones were healing, because IF this wound didn’t heal, I was facing amputation of my lower leg.

The doctors ordered me to take 30 grams of protein every day, sometimes even twice a day.  At first, I took Premier Protein and then I added a powdered protein called “Protein Daily” to half a bottle of Premier.   That equated to 30 grams per serving.  Once I added the Protein Daily to my regimen, the wound healed more rapidly.  In about 3 weeks we were seeing pink skin.  Dec 15-Jan 7.

My accident was in mid-July and the doctor turned me loose about the 2nd day of March.  A very long healing process that I am forever grateful for wound vacs and powerful protein drinks.

Wound Care Center

It would take a wound specialist sometimes as many as 2 hours to apply everything to achieve suction.  After I left rehab, I was sent to a wound therapist at a Wound Care Center.

Each Wound Care Center gets its supplies from different suppliers, so we had to switch vacuum pumps from our initial supplier, Norco because Mountain View Wound Care Center used a different wound vac pump.  That caused us double billing for the month, because Norco,  billed in advance..  There will always be financial tussles to have to work out.  But we find those challenges to be much less a problem than the healing of a severe wound.

Dealing with Cannulas

My wound vac had a cannula and I really had to watch that I didn’t trip over it.   Well, it wasn’t that bad, but when I had to get dressed or use the ladies’ room it was a pain in the “you know what. ”

The wound vac had to be threaded through the leg of my slacks to get dressed.  Confusion amongst the CNA’s was common. ” Do you go from the top down or from the bottom up?”  More times than not, they had to reverse my dressing process mid-stream.

Then when we took a walk or wheelchair stroll, I had to have someone bring along my pump and oxygen.  It was a real effort to try to do anything or go anywhere.

Adding my wound care cannula to my other body fixtures , my nightly oxygen, and my insulin pump meant I had three cannulas helping me with my health.

I have been on oxygen at night for nearly 10 years now. I forget to breathe at night and my oxygen level goes down to 77 or lower.  While I was in rehab, I sometimes had to use oxygen during the day.  Believe me, that was crazy trying to keep the cannulas straight.

Between all the “fixes” in my body, I stay alive. Without them, I would probably just stop breathing one night and be snuffed out or suffer a stroke and wish the t’other would have happened.

I have an insulin pump, a pacemaker and oxygen at night. I’m hooked up to cannulas going every which way it seems.  But thank the Lord for these modern miracles.  I’m still alive and kickin’.  And thank Him for wound vacs that saved my leg so I’m still walkin’.

DISCLAIMER: I remind you that I am not a medical professional.  I am not saying that you will have the same results as I.  Nothing I have said should be misconstrued to mean I give any advice. Should you have unresolved pain or other problems you should always contact your doctor for professional care.

To learn how you can share your experiences with others, and earn an adequate retirement income at the same time.  Click HERE.

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