A new vacuum technique helps wounds heal in as little as six weeks, and carries far fewer risks like scarring and infection.

In recent months, there have been several important innovations in the use of skin grafts to heal chronic wounds. A team out of the U.K. invented a technique that creates strong, more durable grafts through the use of a skin-like compound. Meanwhile, a group from Vienna used white blood cells to prevent skin graft rejection and other issues.

Yet despite these developments, skin grafts still have their fair share of issues, including infection and discoloration, even though the concept itself – replacing damaged skin with healthier samples – is among the most effective medical procedures for addressing non-healing wounds.
That’s why another team from the U.K.’s National Health Services has unveiled an exciting new technique said to be more effective than most skin grafts.

A better approach to skin grafts

As The Daily Mail reported, a group of research scientists and doctors at the NHS have been using a special vacuum-centric approach to improving wound care. The technique is being used as part of an ongoing study at the Royal Free Hospital, in which 35 patients with varying levels of chronic wounds are being treated with daily sessions. The actual procedure is quite different from how a standard skin graft works. In the past, the grafts have been removed via surgery, which is where the increased risk of infection, scarring and other adverse effects come into play.

The vacuum method, meanwhile, works by creating a series of blisters around a piece of donor skin over the course of 30 minutes to an hour of application. From there, these so-called “suction blisters” are collected by the device through standard vacuum suction. The bits of skin are made into strips, and these are applied to the wound with dressings and allowed to heal normally over the course of a few weeks.

Stella Vig, a surgeon assisting with the RFH study, told the Daily Mail that even though the participant group is relatively small, the results are already quite promising. In just six weeks, over 63 percent of patient wounds had healed completely.

She added that the technology will especially help those dealing with chronic ulcers, which account for millions of people worldwide. That could have to do with the scope of the device, as it allows for much smaller skin grafts that weren’t always possible before, and ulcers often develop in varying sizes.

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