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Doubts over wound healing treatment

Doubts have been raised over the effectiveness and value of an increasingly popular method of treating long-term wounds.

Vacuum therapy involves placing a foam dressing into a wound. A tube attached to a canister and a suction device is then inserted into the foam to remove excess fluid, and the area is sealed with a sticky film.

It has been suggested that the procedure might speed up wound healing by increasing oxygen flow, removing bacteria, and boosting the production of chemicals that promote tissue growth.

But a report in this month's Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) concludes that the "clinical effectiveness of this therapy is unclear".

It claims many of the studies carried out on vacuum therapy have been flawed in some way, and as such "cast doubt on the validity and reliability of the results".

The report says "there is no compelling evidence" that the treatment helps bed sores or uncomplicated diabetic foot ulcers to heal more quickly, or that it aids skin grafts to take.

And the research claims there is a lack of evidence to judge how cost-effective the technique is compared with other available treatments.

A suction unit typically costs around £39 a day to rent, and it costs around £50 every time the dressing has to be changed, which is every 48 hours.

Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin

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"Actually yes, I used to work in a surgical ward and always use vac machine in highly exudated diabetic wound and it does miracles" - Sabah Elme

"I am an RN for Sentara Homecare services in Virginia, USA, and I use the wound vac very frequently. I have found it to work on all types of wounds and ulcers" - Amanda

"I used to work in a general surgical ward in Aberdeen, and we used the vacuum therapy on high exudate cavity wounds which we were having little success with other dressings and the results were amazing." - Lorna Fegen, PN, Edinburgh