Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for spinal wounds: A systematic review

Karen J. Ousey, Ross A. Atkinson, J. Bradley Williamson, Steve Lui

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Background context
The management of postoperative spinal wound complication remains a challenge, with surgical site infection (SSI) incidence rates ranging from 0.4% to 20% after spinal surgery. Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) has been highlighted as an intervention that may stimulate healing and prevent SSI. However, the wound healing mechanism by NPWT and its effectiveness in spinal wounds still remain unclear.

To systematically search, critically appraise, and summarize randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCTs assessing the effectiveness of NPWT in patients with a spinal wound.

Study design
Systematic review.

A systematic review based on search strategies recommended by the Cochrane Back and Wounds Review Groups was undertaken using Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases. Any publications between 1950 and 2011 were included. Funding to undertake the review was received from the University of Huddersfield Collaborative Venture Fund ($4,820) and KCI Medical ($4,820).

Ten retrospective studies and four case studies of patients with spinal wound complication were included in this systematic review. No RCTs were found. Only one study described more than 50 patients. Generally, a pressure of -125 mm Hg was used in adults. Duration of NPWT in situ ranged from 3 to 186 days. Wound healing was assessed every 2 to 3 days and generally completed between 7 days and 16 months. Negative pressure wound therapy is contraindicated in the presence of active cerebrospinal fluid leak, metastatic or neoplastic disease in the wound or in patients with an allergy to the NPWT dressing and in those with a bleeding diathesis.

Published reports are limited to small retrospective and case studies, with no reports of NPWT being used as a prophylactic treatment. Larger prospective RCTs of NPWT are needed to support the current evidence that it is effective in treating spinal wound complications. In addition, future studies should investigate its use as a prophylactic treatment to prevent infection and report data relating to safety and health economics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1393-1405
Number of pages13
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number10
Early online date26 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


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