Englewood Community Hospital Offers Faster, More Convenient Way to Heal Wounds
Helping patients heal is the goal of any healthcare facility. Helping them heal more rapidly, completely and conveniently is the goal at Englewood Community Hospital. Recently, Englewood Community became one of the first hospitals in Southwest Florida to offer Vacuum-Assisted Closure (VAC) Therapy, a revolutionary new system that is proving to heal chronic wounds more quickly than conventional therapies. In some cases, dramatic results have been achieved in just a few weeks.
The therapy is both a technique and a device. It works to close a wound by gently and continuously suctioning fluid from it and applying a fresh dressing into it. Not only does this decrease the risk of infection, it stimulates the growth of new skin cells. "The beauty of VAC therapy is that it’s portable and it works," said Lyle Vasher, DPM. "I’ve been able to put tissue over bone with this. That’s unbelievable." Vasher is one of four podiatrists with Englewood Community Hospital’s Wound Management Program, whose staff includes two MDs specializing in peripheral vascular disease. Each month, the staff treats an average of 55 patients, many of whom have open wounds resistant to treatment. They’re not alone.
Nationwide, non-healing wounds present an enormous, ongoing challenge to medical professionals. In fact, each year in the U.S., more than 2.8 million people are treated for wounds that won’t completely heal. Often, these wounds are the result of trauma, vascular disease, diabetes and other circulatory conditions. Treatment can be costly, involving lengthy hospital stays, specialized home care and expensive supplies. "In the past, conventional treatments to control drainage and fight infection required (changing the wound dressing) once or twice daily, every day," said Ann Bartucci, RN, and Clinical Manager for the Wound Management Program at Englewood Community Hospital. "That can be time-consuming and uncomfortable."
For some patients, that scenario is starting to change. Although the VAC system was developed several years ago, its use was confined primarily to major medical and plastic surgery centers until recently. Now that the VAC system has been cleared by the FDA for clinical use, studies suggest that it can lower the cost of treating wounds while improving a patient’s quality of life. Rather than constantly changing moist dressings, such as saline wet-to-moist gauze dressings or antibiotic dressings, the VAC system uses negative pressure, or suction, to enhance healing. "It is a whole different approach," explained Dr. Vasher. "There’s a dressing and a tube connected to the dressing that provides gentle, even suction by way of a battery-powered pump."
Depending on the individual, patients may either wear the pump in a portable mini-pack or use a larger, stationary unit. The obvious advantage of the portable system is that it provides continual wound therapy without interfering with a patient’s daily activities. "We generally see our wound care patients once a week to (clean) the wound, make sure it’s healing correctly, and reapply the dressing to the wound to continue the treatment process," said Dr. Vasher. Although VAC therapy patients still come in for weekly treatment, there are fewer uncomfortable dressing changes during the week. "Usually, we’ll have a home health care nurse see the patient twice a week, for a total of three dressing changes per week," said Bartucci, noting that all of the Wound Care Program’s physicians and home health nurses have been specially VAC-trained by the manufacturer. Further, insurance typically covers the costs associated with the VAC system, including supplies and equipment lease. The patient’s part? Remembering to recharge the battery at night. "Also, they have to make the commitment to have (the VAC) with them at all times, which means wearing the pump in a fanny pack or over their shoulder," said Bartucci. "For some, it’s a hassle. But for most patients, it’s not a problem, sort of like remembering your purse."
Bartucci adds that while VAC therapy is not a miracle cure, it has yielded excellent results thus far. "Of the new wound care therapies, this is the best that we’ve had," she said. "We’re on the cutting edge of the new technology that’s out there."