South African Journal of Surgery
On-line version ISSN 2078-5151
Print version ISSN 0038-2361
AIM: We describe our experience of developing a modified vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) dressing for open abdomens. BACKGROUND: We see a high volume of trauma in our department. Massive delays in presentation of patients with acute abdomen are common. Closure at initial laparotomy is not possible in many cases, either because the patient has or will develop abdominal compartment syndrome, or because several re-look laparotomies will be required. A significant proportion of our patients who have undergone laparotomy therefore spend some of their stay in hospital with an open abdomen. The management of these patients is particularly labour intensive for nursing staff. The Opsite sandwich or Bogota bag invariably leaks, and sometimes needs changing daily. If a patient also has a temporary ileostomy, application can be difficult. The commercial VAC dressing is an improvement on the Opsite sandwich, but is prohibitively expensive. Financial constraints and the volume of abdominal trauma and sepsis we see mean that commercial VAC dressings for laparostomy are not affordable in our setting. METHODS/RESULTS: We describe our adapted VAC dressing. It is inexpensive and easy to apply, has made a big difference in the nursing of patients with an open abdomen, and has enabled us to increase the rate of delayed primary closure (i.e. we have reduced the rate of ventral hernia). CONCLUSION: The modified VAC dressing is now our department's method of choice for temporary abdominal closure.