Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for treating partial-thickness burns

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is the application of negative pressure (a vacuum) across a wound with the aim of managing the wounds and promoting healing. Alternative names for NPWT include topical negative pressure (TNP) therapy, vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) and sealed surface wound suction. In the case of burns, NPWT is used to help the drainage of excess fluid and increase localised blood flow. It has been suggested that the action of NPWT may result in the burn being supplied with increased oxygen and nutrition which could promote healing.We could identify only one clinical trial that tried to address whether NPWT is effective in treating partial-thickness burns, and its results have not yet been published in full. Consequently, there is a lack of trial evidence available, and we could not determine whether NPWT is effective in treating partial-thickness burns. Much more research needs to be done in this area to find out whether NPWT is helpful.

Authors' conclusions: 

There was not enough evidence available to permit any conclusions to be drawn regarding the use of NPWT for treatment of partial-thickness burn wounds.

Read the full abstract...

A burn wound is a complex and evolving injury, with both local and systemic consequences. Burn treatments include a variety of dressings, as well as newer strategies, such as negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), which, by means of a suction force that drains excess fluids from the burn, tries to promote the wound healing process and minimise progression of the burn wound.


To assess the effectiveness of NPWT for people with partial-thickness burns.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (searched 04 September 2014); The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2014, Issue 8).

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) that evaluated the safety and effectiveness of NPWT for partial-thickness burns.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors used standardised forms, and extracted the data independently. We assessed each trial for risk of bias, and resolved differences by discussion.

Main results: 

One RCT, that was an interim report, satisfied the inclusion criteria. We undertook a narrative synthesis of results, as the absence of data and poor reporting precluded us from carrying out any formal statistical analysis. The trial was at high risk of bias.