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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Aug;73(2):447-51. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31825aa9ea.

Does treatment of split-thickness skin grafts with negative-pressure wound therapy improve tissue markers of wound healing in a porcine experimental model?

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Department of Surgery, Maine Medical Center, Portland 04102, USA.



Negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) has been used for to treat wounds for more than 15 years and, more recently, has been used to secure split-thickness skin grafts. There are some data to support this use of NPWT, but the actual mechanism by which NPWT speeds healing or improves skin graft take is not entirely known. The purpose of this project was to assess whether NPWT improved angiogenesis, wound healing, or graft survival when compared with traditional bolster dressings securing split-thickness skin grafts in a porcine model.


We performed two split-thickness skin grafts on each of eight 30 kg Yorkshire pigs. We took graft biopsies on postoperative days 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 and submitted the samples for immunohistochemical staining, as well as standard hematoxylin and eosin staining. We measured the degree of vascular ingrowth via immunohistochemical staining for von Willenbrand's factor to better identify blood vessel epithelium. We determined the mean cross-sectional area of blood vessels present for each representative specimen, and then compared the bolster and NPWT samples. We also assessed each graft for incorporation and survival at postoperative day 10.


Our analysis of the data revealed that there was no statistically significant difference in the degree of vascular ingrowth as measured by mean cross-sectional capillary area (p = 0.23). We did not note any difference in graft survival or apparent incorporation on a macroscopic level, although standard hematoxylin and eosin staining indicated that microscopically, there seemed to be better subjective graft incorporation in the NPWT samples and a nonsignificant trend toward improved graft survival in the NPWT group.


We were unable to demonstrate a significant difference in vessel ingrowth when comparing NPWT and traditional bolster methods for split-thickness skin graft fixation. More studies are needed to elucidate the manner by which NPWT exerts its effects and the true clinical magnitude of these effects.

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