Background: Damage-control surgery and the recognition of the abdominal compartment syndrome have improved patient outcomes but at the cost of an open abdomen. Multiple techniques have been introduced to obtain fascial closure for the open abdomen to minimize morbidity and cost of care. We performed a modification of the vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) technique that provided constant fascial tension, hypothesizing this would result in a higher rate of primary fascial closure.
Methods: After initial temporary closure of the abdomen after post-injury damage control or decompressive laparotomy for abdominal compartment syndrome, we began the sequential closure technique. The technique begins by covering the bowel with the multiple white sponges overlapped like patchwork, and the fascia is placed under moderate tension over the white sponges with #1-PDS sutures. Large black VAC sponges are placed on top of the white sponges and affixed with an occlusive dressing and standard suction tubing is placed. Patients are returned to the operating room for sequential fascial closure and replacement of the sponge sandwich every 2 days, with a resulting decrease in the fascial defect.
Results: Fourteen patients underwent sequential abdominal closure during the study period: 9 owing to damage control surgery and 5 owing to secondary abdominal compartment syndrome. Average time to closure was 7.5 +/- 1.0 days (range 4-16) and average number of laparotomies to closure was 4.6 +/- 0.5 (range 3-8). All patients attained primary fascial closure.
Conclusion: We propose a modification of the previously described vacuum-assisted closure technique that achieves 100% fascial approximation in our limited experience. Further application and refinement of this technique may eliminate the need for delayed complex and costly reconstructive abdominal wall procedures for the open abdomen.