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At the end of this chapter, the learner will be able to:

  1. Explain the cellular and tissue effects of negative pressure wound therapy and link these effects to wound healing.

  2. Describe the components of negative pressure wound therapy systems and their functions.

  3. Describe the indications for negative pressure wound therapy in wound management.

  4. Identify precautions and contraindications for the use of negative pressure wound therapy and develop adaptation strategies.

  5. Describe continuous and intermittent modes of negative pressure wound therapy and the advantages/disadvantages of both.

  6. Describe the basic steps involved in the application of negative pressure wound therapy systems.

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), also known as topical negative pressure therapy (TNP),1,2 and negative pressure wound care (NPWC),3 were first documented as an adjunct treatment for open wounds in the early 1990s.2 By 2004 this active therapy was reported as standard of care for a variety of diagnoses in modern wound management.1 Through the application of a closed wound dressing and attached suction, NPWT applies controlled, subatmospheric pressure to open wounds and has been shown to provide the following benefits for wound healing:

  • Promotion of moist wound healing4

  • Reduction of edema and interstitial fluid1,4,5

  • Increased local perfusion68

  • Approximation of wound edges4,9

  • Stimulation of granulation tissue formation9,10

  • Reduction in bacterial load9,11

  • Reduction in the frequency of dressing changes12

Since its acceptance into evidence-based wound management, NPWT has been utilized to treat a wide variety of acute and chronic wounds13 including acute traumatic and surgical2,14 wounds healing by primary and secondary intention; burns15,16; and chronic wounds associated with venous insufficiency,3,13 diabetes,3,10,17,18 and pressure.19 Events such as the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti15 and war in the Middle East15,20,21 have also shown how the benefits of NPWT can positively influence limb salvage rates and decrease morbidity and mortality in mass casualty and high-energy injury situations.

A NPWT system consists of a pump unit that provides suction, a wound filler that transfers negative pressure to the wound bed and allows flow of fluids from the wound, a transparent occlusive sheet that covers the wound filler and creates an airtight seal, and flexible tubing that delivers suction and serves as a conduit for removal of drainage and wound debris.22 Wound fluids are collected in a disposable container that is attached to the pump (FIGURE 15-1). TABLE 15-1 further describes NPWT components.


Negative pressure wound therapy The fluids are suctioned from the wound, through the foam, into an attached tube and into an air tight disposable canister. Although every system has its own unique characteristics, the basic functions of removing ...

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