Negative Pressure Wound Therapy or NPWT is used to treat serious wounds, unfortunately, this treatment option has allegedly led to severe injury in certain patients. Patients who have used NPWT and experienced negative effects or complications from NPWT may be eligible for compensation.
What is NPWT?
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NPWT is often used to treat burns, grafts and decubitus ulcers, also known as pressure sores or bed sores. It is designed to speed up the healing process by removing drainage and drawing the edges of the wound together. It has been around since the 1990s, but usage has increased in recent years.
Also known as vacuum therapy or vac therapy, NPWT works by placing dressing over the wound with a hose attached to a vacuum or canister. A seal is placed over the dressing and hose and the device is turned on. Drainage runs into the canister while the suction from the vacuum brings the edges of the wound closer together to encourage healing.
The suctioning can be either intermittent or constant and the wound may be acute or chronic. Different amounts of pressure are used based on the wound and other factors. NPWT can be used in a hospital setting, in a nursing home and even continued at home. Unfortunately, complications have arisen from the use of this treatment, and they have occurred in all three settings.
Doctors often recommend NPWT for graft infections, orthopedic implants and abdominal wounds. Infection is a major risk with these diagnoses, and vacuum therapy can reduce the amount of bacteria at the wound site and decrease the likelihood of infection. It also speeds up the healing process, which is essential for decubitus ulcers or bed sores, since they often occur in the elderly or bedridden patients who already have slower healing times.
Reasons for Use
NPWT has become popular for several reasons. First, it reduces the time it takes for a wound to heal. Reducing recovery time is important to both the patient and the doctor. Because the wound can begin healing more quickly, it is less prone to infection. Using the vacuum also lessens the number of bacteria around the wound, which can reduce the risk of infection and other problems.
This system is often prescribed for those who have tried other wound treatment options with limited or no success. For instance, an elderly person with a bed sore may have trouble getting it to heal because their immune system isn’t as strong as when they were younger, and they must continue to lay in bed. NPWT can speed up the healing process, which prevents the bed sore from getting worse.
Wounds which don’t heal quickly may worsen, leading to other issues such as loss of tissue and even muscle and bone. NPWT can prevent these problems as it decreases recovery time.
The Risks with NPWT
Even though Negative Pressure Wound Therapy has proven to be effective in many situations, it does come with a great deal of risk. The procedure isn’t designed to treat every kind of wound, so the doctor must know when to prescribe it and when to choose another form of treatment.
The doctor must also make sure caregivers are trained on the device, whether it is done at a hospital, nursing home or at home. They determine the amount of pressure used, whether it is intermittent or continual and how long the treatment should be used. The wound must be monitored, and the patient or family should be made aware of the potential side effects and what to do.
Bleeding is one of the most common risks with NPWT. Excessive bleeding has led to visits to the ER for treatment. Infection is another risk, especially when pieces of dressing adhere to the tissue. This situation may also require surgery.
NPWT isn’t right for all wounds. It’s also not the correct treatment for all patients. It should not be prescribed for patients with a history of bleeding or hemorrhaging or anyone who needs an MRI. It should not be used with a spinal cord injury or for anyone who is taking anticoagulants.
Certain types of wounds should not be treated with NPWT. They include the following:
- Wounds where nerves or organs are exposed
- Wounds with malignancy
- Untreated osteomyelitis
- Necrotic tissue with eschar
- Exposed vasculature
- Non-enteric and unexplored fistulas
- Exposed anastomotic site
The risk for complications is much higher in these instances.
When Treatment Goes Wrong with NPWT
While the benefits of wound treatment with a vacuum cannot be overlooked, it does carry a great deal of risk over other methods. The risk with NPWT goes beyond discomfort or pain with the wound. It can lead to severe injury or even death. Pieces of dressing, sponge and foam may attach to the tissue around the wound and adhere to the area. It can cause bleeding when it’s torn away or lead to infection if it can’t be removed. Many times, the situation will call for further treatment, which can include antibiotics for infection and surgery to remove the dressing. The wound may become infected, which will prolong the healing time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of deaths and other complications which has come from use of this system. Some of the complications include:
- Wound debridement
- Extensive loss of blood
- Antibiotics for treatment
- Wound separation or dehiscence
- Additional surgery and hospitalization
- Wrongful death
Legal Action for NPWT Injury Cases
Even though the first vacuum therapy was introduced in the 1990s, the rate of use has gone up in recent years. The number of lawsuits filed has also increased. Multiple manufacturers have developed their own vacuum equipment to compete in this area of medical treatment.
While NPWT has proven to be an effective form of wound treatment and the types of usage have expanded, there is a great deal of risk for the patient. The FDA issued a warning in 2009 about the risk when it reported that six people had died from NPWT and another 77 recorded injuries from use.
This is a complex area for legal teams because not all side effects are the result of negligence nor are patients eligible for claims. Investigators must review each case and search for documentation that supports the case for liability. For instance, they must determine if the use of the device was appropriate for the type of wound and patient. They would also decide if all warnings were considered along with other treatment options for the wound.
The investigators would review the specifications used and determine if they were appropriate and if all caregivers were trained in the equipment. Correct dressing materials should be used along with the proper pressure, and the wound should be monitored for changes.
When an investigation is completed, it can be determined if the manufacturer or medical provider is liable and if a case can be made for the patient. If it is decided that someone was responsible for the misuse of the NPWT, the patient may be eligible for compensation. They could receive damages for the cost of medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Medical care to treat the complications from NPWT can be extensive and costly. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat infections. Surgery may be necessary, and in some instances, amputation may be required if the wound will not heal. Rehab is another cost which may be included. The quality of life for the patient may be affected, especially with the extended recovery time.
We Can Help
If you or your family member has suffered severe complications and injury from the use of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy, you may be entitled to compensation. Reports from the FDA indicate that hundreds of patients have suffered from misuse of the wound treatment option. Many of them have needed surgery and antibiotic therapy to recover. Low blood pressure and shock have led to emergency treatment.
You can contact us to find out how we can help you seek compensation for your injury. We have been fighting for patient rights for years, and we are dedicated to seeking justice on your behalf. We provide a free consultation to discuss the particulars of your case and to provide recommendations. We will fight for you and work to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. We believe that manufacturers often overlook patient safety in the name of making a larger profit. We also believe they should be held accountable for their actions and the negative impact that has on you.
Contact us today to find out if you are eligible for compensation for your injury from the use of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy. We want to help you receive justice and compensation for your loss.
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