Background: Abdominal Vacuum-Assisted Closure (V.A.C.) systems for treatment of open abdomens have been predominantly used for trauma patients with a high primary fascial closure rate. Use of the V.A.C. technique in abdominal sepsis is less well established.
Methods: All patients with abdominal sepsis and treatment with the abdominal V.A.C. system between 2004 and 2007 were prospectively assessed. End points were fascial closure, V.A.C.-related morbidity, and quality of life score (SF-36) at follow-up.
Results: Thirty patients with abdominal sepsis were included in the study. Primary fascial closure was feasible in 10, partial closure in 4, and no closure in 16 patients. Median number of V.A.C. changes was 3 (range, 1-10). Nine patients died. V.A.C.-related morbidity was as follows: two fistulas, three fascial edge necroses, one skin blister, and four prolapses of small bowel between the fascia and foam. Univariate analysis showed no variables influencing primary closure rate or V.A.C.-related morbidity. Mortality was significantly influenced by age (P < 0.001), respiratory failure (P = 0.01), and pneumonia (P = 0.03). At follow-up, V.A.C. patients scored lower in the physical health scores and similar in the mental health scores compared with the normal population.
Conclusions: Treatment of the open abdomen in patients with abdominal sepsis with the abdominal V.A.C. system is safe with good long-term quality of life. Primary closure rate in these patients is substantially lower than in trauma patients. Stepwise closure of the fascia during V.A.C. changes should be attempted to avoid additional lateral retraction of fascial edges. V.A.C.-related complications may be avoided with careful surgical technique.