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BACKGROUND: Major trauma is the leading cause of death in people aged  72 hours after injury and inability to complete questionnaires. INTERVENTIONS: Incisional negative-pressure wound therapy (n = 785), in which a non-adherent absorbent dressing covered with a semipermeable membrane is connected to a pump to create a partial vacuum over the wound, versus standard dressings not involving negative pressure (n = 763). Trial participants and the treating surgeon could not be blinded to treatment allocation. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Deep surgical site infection at 30 days was the primary outcome measure. Secondary outcomes were deep infection at 90 days, the results of the Disability Rating Index, health-related quality of life, the results of the Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale and resource use collected at 3 and 6 months post surgery. RESULTS: A total of 98% of participants provided primary outcome data. There was no evidence of a difference in the rate of deep surgical site infection at 30 days. The infection rate was 6.7% (50/749) in the standard dressing group and 5.8% (45/770) in the incisional negative-pressure wound therapy group (intention-to-treat odds ratio 0.87; 95% confidence interval 0.57 to 1.33; p = 0.52). There was no difference in the deep surgical site infection rate at 90 days: 13.2% in the standard dressing group and 11.4% in the incisional negative-pressure wound therapy group (odds ratio 0.84, 95% confidence interval 0.59 to 1.19; p = 0.32). There was no difference between the two groups in disability, quality of life or scar appearance at 3 or 6 months. Incisional negative-pressure wound therapy did not reduce the cost of treatment and was associated with a low probability of cost-effectiveness. LIMITATIONS: Owing to the emergency nature of the surgery, we anticipated that some patients who were randomised would subsequently be unable or unwilling to participate. However, the majority of the patients (85%) agreed to participate. Therefore, participants were representative of the population with lower-limb fractures associated with major trauma. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study do not support the use of negative-pressure wound therapy in patients having surgery for major trauma to the lower limbs. FUTURE WORK: Our work suggests that the use of incisional negative-pressure wound therapy dressings in other at-risk surgical wounds requires further investigation. Future research may also investigate different approaches to reduce postoperative infections, for example the use of topical antibiotic preparations in surgical wounds and the role of orthopaedic implants with antimicrobial coatings when fixing the associated fracture. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN12702354 and UK Clinical Research Network Portfolio ID20416. FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 38. See the NIHR Journals Library for further project information.

Original publication




Journal article


Health technol assess

Publication Date





1 - 86


FRACTURE SURGERY, NEGATIVE PRESSURE WOUND THERAPY, SURGICAL SITE INFECTION, WOUND DRESSINGS, Adult, Bandages, Female, Fractures, Open, Humans, Lower Extremity, Male, Middle Aged, Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy, Surgical Wound Infection, United Kingdom, Wound Healing