Background: Temporary closure of an open abdominal wound by vacuum-pack is the method of choice for patients requiring open abdomen management in our institution. We have previously reported our experience with a vacuum-pack in trauma patients and have expanded its use to general and vascular surgery patients.
Study design: This is a descriptive study performed through review of medical records of all patients undergoing vacuum-pack closure after celiotomy from January 1999 to May 2006. Clinical and demographic data were collected.
Results: Seven hundred seventeen vacuum-pack closures were performed in 258 surgical patients (116 trauma versus 142 general and vascular surgery). The most common indication for open abdomen management was damage control in trauma patients and planned reexploration in general and vascular surgery patients. Total abdominal complication rate was 15.5% (14.7% trauma versus 16.2% general and vascular surgery). Fistulas occurred in 13 (5%), intraabdominal abscesses in 9 (3.5%), bowel obstruction in 3 (1.2%), abdominal compartment syndrome in 3 (1.2%), and evisceration in 1 (0.4%). Two hundred twenty-six patients survived to permanent abdominal wound closure. Of these, 154 (68.1%) patients underwent primary fascial closure of their abdominal wounds. Seventy-two patients (31.9%) required delayed closure. In-hospital mortality rate was 26.0% (25.9% trauma versus 26.1% general and vascular surgery). The cost of vacuum-pack materials is less than $50.
Conclusions: Indication for open abdomen management varied between general and vascular surgery and trauma patients. Complication rates were similar. Primary closure of open abdominal wounds was achieved in 68.4% of patients. Vacuum-pack temporary abdominal wound closure, initially used in trauma patients, continues to demonstrate ease of mastery, effectiveness in patient care and comfort, consistently low associated complication rate, and low cost in both general and vascular surgery and trauma patients.