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Green light for 'vacuum' procedure to heal open abdominal wounds

A procedure to help heal open abdominal wounds has been given the all clear by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) following an investigation into safety concerns.

The technique – Negative Pressure Wound Therapy – is sometimes used after major abdominal surgery or injury when the wound cannot be closed using conventional methods.

It involves a “vacuum system” being applied to the open wound and surrounding area to help remove excess blood and fluid and keep the wound clean.

In 2009 NICE launched a national audit of the procedure, which can be used during laparostomy, in the light of concerns raised by a specialist unit. There were fears it might increase a patient’s risk of developing intestinal fistulae – holes in the bowel wall that leak bowel contents and may not heal.

However, NICE announced this week that the technique had been shown to be “safe and effective” and published updated guidance for hospitals.

The institute estimated that up to 10 patients a year may require this type of intensive care treatment.

  • This week NICE also recommended a treatment for a common eye problem that affects around 14% of diabetes patients. It backed fluocinolone acetonide intravitreal implant (Iluvien) as an option for the treatment of chronic diabetic macular oedema, which causes blurred or double vision.

However, the implant is only recommended as an option for oedema that is insufficiently responsive to other available therapies and where it will be used in an eye with an intraocular lens.


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