Background: Wartime missile injuries are frequently high-energy wounds that devitalize and contaminate tissue, with high risk for infection and wound complications. Debridement, irrigation, and closure by secondary intention are fundamental principles for the management of these injuries. However, closure by secondary intention was impractical in Iraqi patients. Therefore, wounds were closed definitively before discharge in all Iraqi patients treated for such injures at our hospital. A novel wound management protocol was developed to facilitate this practice, and patient outcomes were tracked. This article describes that protocol and discusses the outcomes in a series of 88 wounds managed with it.
Methods: High-energy injuries were treated with rapid aggressive debridement and pulsatile lavage, then covered with negative pressure (vacuum-assisted closure [VAC]) dressings. Patients underwent serial operative irrigation and debridement until wounds appeared clean to gross inspection, at which time they were closed primarily. Patient treatment and outcome data were recorded in a prospectively updated database.
Results: Treatment and outcomes data from September 2004 through May 2005 were analyzed retrospectively. There were 88 high-energy soft tissue wounds identified in 77 patients. Surprisingly, for this cohort of patients the wound infection rate was 0% and the overall wound complication rate was 0%.
Conclusion: This series of 88 cases is the first report of the use of a negative pressure dressing (wound VAC) as part of the definitive management of high-energy soft tissue wounds in a deployed wartime environment. Our experience with these patients suggests that conventional wound management doctrine may be improved with the wound VAC, resulting in earlier more reliable primary closure of wartime injuries.