Does a Negative Pressure Dressing Reduce Wound Infections After Surgery?

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


July 20, 2017

Does a negative pressure dressing reduce the frequency of wound infections after abdominal surgery? O'Leary and colleagues conducted a randomized trial, reported in Annals of Surgery,[1] comparing the results of a standard dressing (n = 25) with a commercially available negative pressure dressing (n = 25), with the main outcome measure being presence or absence of a wound infection 30 days after surgery. Two wound infections occurred in the negative pressure–treated group compared with eight in the standard dressing group (P = .07). Wound appearance and patient satisfaction appeared to be equal in the two groups.


Wound infection, which is potentially avoidable, is a common, expensive complication of abdominal surgery; in this report, the overall infection rate was 20% (10/50 patients). This trial found that a negative pressure dressing led to a borderline reduction in the frequency of wound infections, indicating that the trial adds only limited new evidence to the still unresolved question about the benefit of this type of wound dressing. An updated Cochrane review based on nine trials and 785 patients stated that the benefit of negative pressure dressings on the frequency of wound infection remains unclear.[2] Cost is another issue, as commercially available negative pressure dressings are more expensive than standard dressings. This report does not resolve the issue about using or not using negative pressure dressings after abdominal surgery.


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