Problems associated with Vacuum Assisted Closure (VAC) therapy
Treatment of VAC therapy is associated with a number of reported complications. The most pertinent is reduced mobility because of the need to remain connected to a mechanical device. This has been greatly reduced with the arrival of smaller, lighter, more portable devices with long-lasting batteries, such as the VAC Via.
The benefits of VAC Via
In April 2011 the VAC Via was introduced worldwide and University College Hospital (UCLH) in the UK became one of the pioneers of this new engineering technology for patients with diabetic foot disease.
VAC Via provides multiple benefits. For patients, its portable, discreet, easy-to-operate design enables them to return to ‘normality’. Due to existing mobility issues, we found the VAC Via, with its palm sized, lightweight design to be more of a benefit compared to the other heavier VAC therapy devices. VAC Via may allow for earlier patient discharge by reducing or eliminating the need for inpatient treatment.
The cost of VAC Via treatment
The estimated cost of treating single foot ulceration during a two year period is £14,000 in the USA. Diabetic patients with neuropathic risk factors incur five times more direct medical costs for ulcers and amputations. Evidence suggests that VAC therapy is cost-effective as it reduces the length of hospital stay thus decreasing overall medical costs. VAC therapy was found to be equally as expensive as conventional moist gauze. However, as there is a longer time between dressing changes with VAC, there is less demand on nursing staff.
It is important to note that calculations made in one country may not be generalised in other countries. When assessing the costs, the disposable material required for the change of dressing should also be taken into account. The emergence of new devices, such as the VAC Via, should reduce these costs.
Revascularisation and VAC
It has been shown that in diabetic patients suffering from restricted blood supply to the limbs, revascularisation (the augmentation of the blood supply) is feasible in most cases and reduces the rate of early major amputation. To achieve this, multiple revascularisation procedures may be required, and close surveillance is mandatory. Of paramount importance is that revascularisation should precede VAC on a diabetic foot suffering from restricted blood supply.
VAC therapy and use by public health systems
VAC therapy has been shown to be useful in the treatment of certain diabetic foot complications. Revascularisation options are not limited, but length of treatment may be significantly reduced with the use of VAC Via. It facilitates early discharge as treatment can be achieved effectively as an outpatient. The cost effectiveness of VAC depends on the public health care system and local operational practices.Needless to say, cost effectiveness is what drives the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Lack of UK based studies to promote VAC Via as a combined therapeutic option based on cost effectiveness, leaves clinicians nationwide vulnerable. Emerging therapies thrive in the glory of competitive technology, and as we face a financial hurdle with potentially devastating consequences on the NHS, robust clinical trials need to be expedited to ensure we maintain our stance in the forefront of medical discovery.
About Toby Richards
Mr Toby Richards is a specialist in treating patients with Arterial and Venous Disease including varicose veins. He is a Consultant Vascular & Endovascular Surgeon at University College Hospital London and additionally holds an academic post as Senior Lecturer in Surgery at University College London.