Background: Damage control and decompressive laparotomies salvage severely injured patients who would have previously died. Unfortunately, many of these patients develop open abdomens. A variety of management strategies exist. The end result in many cases, however, is a large ventral hernia that requires a complex repair 6 to 12 months after discharge. We instituted vacuum-assisted wound closure (VAWC) to achieve early fascial closure and eliminate the need for delayed procedures.
Methods: For 12 months ending June 2000, 14 of 698 trauma intensive care unit admissions developed open abdomens and were managed with VAWC dressing. This was changed every 48 hours in the operating room with serial fascial approximation until complete closure.
Results: Fascial closure was achieved in 13 patients (92%) in 9.9 +/- 1.9 days, and 2.8 +/- 0.6 VAWC dressing changes were performed. There were 2 wound infections, no eviscerations, and no enteric fistulas.
Conclusions: Use of VAWC can safely achieve early fascial closure in more than 90% of trauma patients with open abdomens.