My wife had spine surgery that went well but later she developed a bad infection next to the bone. The wound has never healed, and the surgeon is suggesting a new treatment called VAC. What can you tell me about it?
VAC stands for Vacuum-Assisted Closure. It consists of a special sponge-like dressing that's put inside the wound. It goes right up against the bone or hardware in the spine. The sponge must cover the entire wound but can't touch the skin.

A suction tube in placed on top of the sponge. Everything is sealed off with a special tape. The tube is attached to a vacuum pump. When the pump is turned on, the sponge contracts tightly against the wound. Any blood or fluid draining from the wound is sucked out of the area, through the tube, and into a holding device.

The sponge is changed every 48 to 72 hours. The nursing staff can do this. Sometimes it has to be done in the operating room. The surgeon decides when and how VAC dressings are changed. He or she takes into consideration how the wound looks and how much drainage is collected in the vacuum chamber.

The treatment can take weeks to years before final wound healing occurs. Good nutrition and avoiding tobacco products are very important steps to take in the healing process. Patients who have diabetes or other health problems present much more complex cases.