Negative Pressure Wound Therapy is a procedure that is used to help patients heal from certain types of wounds. It has been prescribed for decades, but the number of cases utilizing this treatment option are growing. However, adverse effects have been noted from multiple cases where the treatment caused more problems instead of healing the injury when used incorrectly or for the wrong conditions. Anyone who suffered complications and negative side effects from Negative Pressure Wound Therapy may be entitled to financial compensation.
What is NPWT and How Is It Used?
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Negative Pressure Wound Therapy or NPWT is a procedure to treat different kinds of wounds to help them heal faster. It uses a wound vacuum to suction the drainage from the wound, allowing it to dry out so that the healing process can begin. It also pulls the edges of the wound closed so they will heal correctly. Another purpose for this treatment is to promote improved blood flow to the wound, which also speeds up the healing process.
NPWT is a treatment for chronic wounds as well as those that are acute. It is often prescribed for wounds that have poor circulation, become infected or are caused by burns. It is also effective for wounds with exposed bone and artificial implants.
Some of the primary applications for NPWT include the following:
- Graft infections – infections often occur at the site of a graft. Many of these wounds are resistant to antibiotics and NPWT treatments can reduce the number of bacteria while decreasing the timeline for healing
- Orthopedic implants – NPWT is often used to promote faster healing at the site of the implant and to reduce the risk of infection, which can result in limited movement of the joint
- Abdominal wounds – NPWT reduces the biggest risks with abdominal wounds, including slow healing, serious infections and chronic inflammation
The versatility of NPWT is one reason for its popularity among medical personnel. However, treatment will vary by patient based on their unique needs.
NPWT is often used in hospitals as part of wound care as well as in nursing homes where patients may develop chronic wounds. They can then continue the treatment at home until the wound heals. Reports have shown that severe complications with this treatment have occurred in all environments, whether with professional medical staff in a hospital or at home with trained caregivers.
How It Works
With the NPWT procedure, foam packing or some type of moist gauze is used. It is placed on the wound. The medical personnel will place tubing in the middle of the packing. A clear dressing will cover the entire wound. The tubing is connected to a canister on a vacuum. The machine is turned on and the packing will tighten as drainage runs into the canister.
Injuries Related to NPWT
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported fatalities and severe complications from the use of NPWT. Some of these complications include the following:
- Antibiotic therapy
- Wound debridement
- Extensive blood loss
- Dehiscence or wound separation
- Wrongful death
- Additional surgical procedures and hospitalization
Cases that were reported involved fragments of dressing which stayed in the wound and led to infections. Sponge and foam stuck to the wound and surrounding tissue also caused serious injuries. Those who were affected often required additional treatment, including surgery and hospitalization.
Bleeding was a common occurrence with NPWT. It was often reported in situations involving grafts where the bleeding was extensive. In fact, the bleeding was so severe that a visit to the ER or hospital was often required.
Infection has been another serious issue which often occurs because of an infected wound or from the pieces of dressing remaining in the wound. In some cases, the dressing adhered to the wound, requiring surgical removal.
The Risk with NPWT
While Negative Pressure Wound Therapy has many benefits to helping wounds heal, there are certain times when it should not be used. Some examples of when it isn’t appropriate include the following wound situations:
- Wounds with exposed nerves
- Wounds with exposed organs
- Malignant wounds
- Exposed anastomotic site
- Exposed vasculature
- Necrotic tissue with eschar
- Non-enteric and unexplored fistulas
- Untreated osteomyelitis
Besides determining the correct wound condition as to whether NPWT is the correct method of treatment, the doctor must consider the risk factors for the patient. Certain patients aren’t good candidates for this type of treatment. They include the following:
- Patients who take anticoagulants
- Patients with spinal cord injury
- Patients who have a high risk for bleeding or hemorrhage
- Patients who need an MRI
Doctors must ensure their patients are good candidates for this treatment to avoid a claim of malpractice.
Lawsuits with NPWT
The first vacuum was introduced in the 1990s to help with wound care. Since then, more manufacturers have developed kits to speed up the healing process for wounds. Doctors have found more uses for the procedure and it has become more popular. However, there has also been a rise in cases where the therapy caused harm and even led to death.
In 2009, the FDA issued a warning about NPWT and the risk it posed. At that time, six deaths had been reported along with 77 injuries due to the NPWT systems. There is a great deal of risk with use of this treatment as the device has a specific use and may not be effective or safe on all types of wounds or all patients. It is also complex to use, which means more training is required.
When determining whether there is a case against NPWT, attorneys and investigators must review several factors. Some of these issues include the following:
- Was the use of NPWT appropriate for the patient and their wound?
- Were all warnings and precautions taken into consideration?
- Were other treatment options considered?
- Were all caregivers trained in the use of NPWT?
- Were all specifications met for the device and treatment, such as frequency of dressing changes and correct pressure and type of suction?
- Were the correct dressing materials used?
- Was the wound monitored correctly?
- Was the patient informed of signs to watch for and appropriate action to be taken if a problem was noted?
- Has all documentation been provided in the medical record?
Seeking Help for NPWT Injuries
If you or a loved one has gone through this treatment and suffered medical complications as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. There are usually two options for a case with medical device liability. If the device malfunctioned, it may be the fault of the manufacturer for providing a defective product.
Reports show that hundreds of patients have been negatively impacted by the use of the NPWT system. Many of them have experienced bleeding, infections and other effects which have required surgery and antibiotic treatment. In a few cases, death has been the result from severe bleeding. For others, they have experienced low blood pressure, shock and other medical emergencies.
The cost of care to reverse the effects from NPWT can be extensive. Surgery and other treatments are often expensive and cause continued pain and suffering until the person recovers. Healing time can be lengthy, especially for those with other medical conditions or those who are elderly. In some cases, the damage can be permanent and result in other problems, which can lead to a lower quality of life.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one has used this device and suffered negative effects, you can contact us to help. We will review your case to determine eligibility. We will discuss with you amount of compensation and help you understand the process to receive damages for your loss. We also work to determine who is at fault. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Legal help can make the process of recovery easier while you focus on healing.
We have been defending patient rights for decades and we will fight for you. We work to ensure those who are responsible are held accountable for their actions and decisions. We are dedicated to helping you receive the compensation you deserve and the justice which is rightfully yours. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine your next step forward.