A Comparison of Negative Pressure and Conventional Therapy in Infected Open Chest Wounds

Mathew Thomas, Ian A. Makey, Mauricia A. Buchanan, Michael G. Heckman, Launia J. White, Bettie J. Lechtenberg, Dennis Wigle, K. Robert Shen, Shanda H. Blackmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The role of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) in the management of open chest wounds is unclear. Our aim was to determine the safety and efficacy of NPWT compared with conventional therapy for open chest wounds. Methods: Ten patients with infected open chest wounds were included in a prospective trial of NPWT after surgical debridement. Their outcomes were compared with those of 11 control patients treated during the same period with surgical debridement and open chest packing only. The control group data were obtained by retrospective review of medical records. Results: The median duration of NPWT was eight days (range 2-29 days), with closure in eight patients (80%). Two patients having NPWT had unveiling of occult pleural fistulas leading to early discontinuation. The patients having NPWT had a shorter median time to closure (7 versus 18 days; p = 0.071) and shorter initial (median 6 versus 20 days; p = 0.026) and total (median 6 versus 25 days; p = 0.024) hospital length of stay. Control patients had higher rates of new-onset atrial fibrillation (46% versus 0; p = 0.035) and septic shock (64% versus 10%; p = 0.024). The chest was either closed or healing at the time of the last visit in 100% of the NPWT patients versus 73% of control patients (p = 0.28). The 1-year survival estimates were 90% for the NPWT patients and 80% for the control patients (p = 0.69). Conclusion: Negative pressure wound therapy is feasible and safe for open infected chest wounds in selected patients compared with open packing alone and may reduce hospital stay duration and major complication rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-961
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • bronchopleural fistula
  • chronic wound
  • empyema
  • negative pressure therapy
  • wound care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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