Negative pressure wound therapy: Low cost machines and local adaptations

As defined by Wikipedia, “Negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a therapeutic technique using a vacuum dressing to promote healing in acute or chronic wounds.” (1) This therapy was discovered at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Salem, NC (USA) in 1990, while researchers were studying stress to tissues. They found that wounds healed better and more quickly with negative pressure. Three articles on vacuum assisted therapy were later written by Morykwas and Argenta in 1997 (2,3,4).

There is dead tissue in chronic wounds, and because oxygen transport and other basic functions occur at the cellular level, this will cause impaired circulation. Due to the negative pressure, the topical wound suction system can increase oxygen circulation, and therefore improve healing (5).

The problem with using these treatment modes, even with their well-documented benefits, is the exorbitant cost involved. Unfortunately, the poor patients in rural areas need this most. Therefore, we designed the low-cost vacuum therapy unit that helped us to save many limbs from amputation [6].

Here, we present how the various models evolved over a period of time.


We used sanitary napkins and regular suction machines in the first attempt. It was effective, but there were some problems. It was difficult to maintain airtight dressings, and someone had to be present to switch the machines on and off. Also, because of overuse of the machines, some of...

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