Postoperative Deep Wound Infections in Adults After Spinal Fusion: Management with Vacuum-Assisted Wound Closure

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Vacuum-assisted wound closure (VAC) exposes the wound bed to negative pressure, resulting in removal of edema fluid, improvement of blood supply, and stimulation of cellular proliferation of reparative granulation tissue. It has been used to treat open wounds in the extremities, open sternal wounds, pressure ulcers, and abdominal wall wounds. This study retrospectively reviewed instrumented spine fusions complicated by surgical wound infection and managed by a protocol including the use of VAC in order to evaluate the efficacy of applying vacuum therapy on patients with deep spine infections and exposed instrumentation.


Twenty consecutive patients with deep wound infections after undergoing spinal fusion procedures were studied. There were 12 men and 8 women with an average age of 55 years (31–81 years). Eight patients had undergone concomitant anterior and posterior arthrodesis, nine patients had a posterior spinal fusion, and three patients had a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion. Seven patients had a decompression with exposed dura. Sixteen patients presented with a draining wound within the first 6 weeks postoperatively (average 24 days). There were four patients who presented with back pain and temperature after 1 year postoperatively (average 3 years). All patients were taken to the operating room for irrigation and debridement followed by placement of the VAC with subsequent delayed closure of the wound.


There was an average of 1.8 (1–8) irrigation and debridement procedures prior to placement of the VAC. Once the VAC was initiated, there was an average of 2.2 (2–3) procedures until and including closure of the wound. The wound was closed an average of 7 days (5–14 days) after the placement of the initial VAC in the wound. All patients tolerated the VAC without adverse effects. All patients were kept on a 6-week course of intravenous antibiotic therapy. The average follow-up was 10 months (6–24 months). There were no cases of uncontrolled sepsis once the VAC was initiated. All patients achieved a clean closed wound without removal of instrumentation at a minimum follow-up of 6 months.


VAC therapy is an effective adjunct in closing complex deep spinal wounds with exposed instrumentation.

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