A streamlined version of ‘negative-pressure’ wound therapy is put to the test in Haiti — and could have ‘enormous potential’ across the developing world.
Nobody knows precisely why it works, but doctors have known for decades that the healing process for open wounds can be greatly speeded up by applying negative pressure — that is, suction — under a bandage sealed tightly over the affected area. The speculation is that it helps by drawing bacteria and fluid away from the wound, keeping it cleaner.
For patients, there is a benefit even beyond the speedier healing. Traditional dressings need to be removed and replaced — sometimes painfully — up to three times a day, but with the negative pressure system dressings can be left in place for a few days. But in the developing world, there’s a problem: The systems are expensive, and they need to be plugged in or powered by batteries that last only a few hours. In many developing nations, a reliable source of electricity is rarely available.