PURPOSE: To evaluate the use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) to augment healing of surgical incisions and hematomas after high-energy trauma. MATERIALS: This study is a prospective randomized evaluation of NPWT in trauma patients, randomizing patients with draining hematomas to either a pressure dressing (group A) or a VAC (group B). Additionally, patients with calcaneus, pilon, and high-energy tibial plateau fractures were randomized to either a standard postoperative dressing or a VAC over the sutures. RESULTS: There were 44 patients randomized into the hematoma study. Group A drained a mean of 3.1 days, compared with only 1.6 days for group B. This difference was significant (p ≤ 0.03). The infection rate for group A was 16%, compared with 8% in group B. An additional 44 patients have been randomized into the fracture study. Again, a significant difference (p ≤ 0.02) was present when comparing drainage in group A (4.8 days) and group B (1.8 days). No significant difference was present at current enrollment for infection or wound breakdown. DISCUSSION: NPWT has been used on many complex traumatic wounds. Potential mechanisms of action include angiogenesis, increased blood flow, and decreased interstitial fluid. This ongoing randomized study has demonstrated decreased drainage and improved wound healing following both hematomas and severe fractures. Copyright © 2006 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.