Negative pressure wound therapy

Lessening preventable pain can minimize suffering and improve healing times

By: Mölnlycke Health Care, May 16 2014Posted in: Negative pressure wound therapy

CortisolsNegative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is an effective treatment for healing a wound. It is, however, a relatively painful method to use. This pain and the accompanying stress to patients can impact on their quality of life, and can extend their healing prognosis.

2103 study on how to improve NPWT

A 20131 study set out to identify the ways in which the patient experience of NPWT could be improved. They did this by documenting the experiences of wound care professionals and their patients in relation to the levels of pain, stress and skin trauma.

51 patients who were currently undergoing or who had recently completed NPWT partook in the study. They were asked about their pain and stress or anxiety levels, skin trauma and other treatment issues. 270 wound care experts also participated in the clinician part of the survey.

Pain the most significant issue

Patients reported pain as being the most significant issue, and some findings of the study were related to stress such as quality of life issues of feeling trapped, loss of control and lower self-esteem. This came as no great surprise for the researchers: what they really wanted to know was what stage of the process was associated with the most pain and stress; was there a relationship between their treatment regime and their pain levels; what factors were contribute to it; and did the type of dressing they used impact on the pain and stress levels experienced?

Anxiety in anticipation of pain

The stages most identified as being painful in NPWT include the cleaning of the wound, packing of foam, and at the start and finish of therapy; and 50 percent of patients specifically identified pain at dressing changes. More than one third reported anxiety, particularly at the start of treatment due to not knowing what to expect and also in anticipation of pain. This was interesting to the researches because stress has been irrevocably linked to pain, and stress has also been proven to delay healing.

Lessen preventable pain to mimizie suffering and improve healing times

While it is practically impossible for NPWT systems to eliminate pain completely, the opportunity to lessen preventable pain when it is experienced most – at dressing changes – is something that can be addressed to minimize suffering and to have a positive effect on healing.


  1. Upton, D., Stephens, D. & Andrews, A. (2013). Patients' experiences of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy for the treatment of wounds: a review. Journal of Wound Care 22 (1), 34-3
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