JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Vacuum assisted closure for the treatment of sternal wounds: the bridge between débridement and definitive closure.

A method to refine the treatment of sternal wounds using Vacuum Assisted Closure (V.A.C.) therapy as the bridge between débridement and delayed definitive closure is described. A retrospective review of 35 consecutive patients with sternal wound complications over a 2-year period (March of 1999 to March of 2001) was performed. The treatment of sternal wounds with traditional twice-a-day dressing changes was compared with the treatment with the wound V.A.C. device. An analysis of the number of days between initial débridement and closure, number of dressing changes, number and types of flaps needed for reconstruction, and complications was performed. Eighteen patients were treated with traditional twice-a-day dressing changes and 17 patients were treated with V.A.C. therapy alone. The two groups were similar regarding age, sex, type of cardiac procedure, and type of sternal wound. The V.A.C. therapy group had a trend toward a shorter interval between débridement and closure, with a mean of 6.2 days, whereas the dressing change group had mean of 8.5 days. The V.A.C. therapy group had a significantly lower number of dressing changes, with a mean of three, whereas the twice-a-day dressing change group had a mean of 17 (p < 0.05). Reconstruction required an average of 1.5 soft-tissue flaps per patient treated with traditional dressing changes versus 0.9 soft-tissue flaps per patient for those treated with V.A.C. therapy (p < 0.05). Before closure, there was one death among patients undergoing dressing changes and three in the V.A.C. therapy group, all of which were unrelated to the management of the sternal wound. Patients with sternal wounds who have benefited from V.A.C. therapy alone have a significant decrease in the number of dressing changes and number of soft-tissue flaps needed for closure. Finally, the V.A.C. therapy group had a trend toward a decreased number of days between débridement and closure.

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