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Vacuum-Assisted Closure Device as a Split-Thickness Skin Graft Bolster in the Burn Population

Waltzman, Joshua T. MD, MBA; Bell, Derek E. MD

doi: 10.1097/BCR.0000000000000009
Original Articles

The vacuum-assisted closure device (VAC) is associated with improved wound healing outcomes. Its use as a bolster device to secure a split-thickness skin graft has been previously demonstrated; however, there is little published evidence demonstrating its benefits specifically in the burn population. With use of the VAC becoming more commonplace, its effect on skin graft take and overall time to healing in burn patients deserves further investigation. Retrospective review of burn registry database at a high-volume level I trauma center and regional burn center during a 16-month period was performed. Patients who had a third-degree burn injury requiring a split-thickness skin graft and who received a VAC bolster were included. Data points included age, sex, burn mechanism, burn location, grafted area in square centimeters, need for repeat grafting, percent graft take, and time to complete reepithelialization. Sixty-seven patients were included in the study with a total of 88 skin graft sites secured with a VAC. Age ranged from <1 year to 84 years (average 41 years). The average grafted area was 367 ± 545 cm2. The three most common were the leg, thigh, and arm (28, 15, and 12%, respectively). Average percent graft take was 99.5 ± 1.5%. Notably, no patients returned to the operating room for repeat grafting. The average time to complete reepithelialization was 16 ± 7 days. The VAC is a highly reliable and reproducible method to bolster a split-thickness skin graft in the burn population. The observed rate of zero returns to the operating room for repeat grafting was especially encouraging. Its ability to conform to contours of the body and cover large surface areas makes it especially useful in securing a graft. This method of bolstering results in decreased repeat grafting and minimal graft loss, thus decreasing morbidity compared with conventional bolster dressings.

From the Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.

Address correspondence to Derek Bell, MD, MBA, Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Strong Memorial Hospital, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 661, Rochester, New York 14642.

© 2014 The American Burn Association