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Negative-pressure wound therapy is a ubiquitous wound management resource. The influence of NPWT on the bacterial bioburden of the subjacent wound remains unclear. We sought to examine the evidence.MEDLINE, Embase, PubMed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register were searched for articles quantitatively evaluating bacterial load under NPWT.Twenty-four studies met the inclusion criteria including 4 randomised controlled trials, 8 clinical series and 12 experimental studies. Twenty studies evaluated conventional NPWT, while 4 evaluated infiltration-based NPWT. While 8 studies using conventional NPWT failed to demonstrate an observable effect on bacterial load, 7 studies reported that NPWT was inherently bacteriostatic and 5 others reported species selectivity with suppression of non-fermentative gram-negative bacilli (NFGNB), including Pseudomonas spp. Simultaneously, there was some evidence of enhanced proliferation of gram-positive cocci where the niche was cleared of NFGNB. Two of the 4 studies using infiltration-based NPWT also reported selectively impaired proliferation of Pseudomonas spp.The assumption that NPWT suppresses bacterial proliferation is oversimplified. There is evidence that NPWT exhibits species selectivity, suppressing the proliferation of NFGNB. However, this may depopulate the niche for exploitation by gram-positive cocci. This, in turn, has implications for the use of NPWT where highly virulent strains of gram-positive cocci have been isolated and the duration of NPWT therapy and frequency of dressing changes.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of plastic, reconstructive & aesthetic surgery : JPRAS

Publication Date





1028 - 1037


Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Bart's Health NHS Trust, The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, London, UK. Electronic address:


Animals, Humans, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus aureus, Wounds and Injuries, Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy, Bacterial Load