Come join others currently navigating treatment in our weekly Zoom Meetup! Register here: Tuesdays, 1pm ET.
New Feature: Fill out your Profile to share more about you. Learn more...

wound vac on a breast?

Kayleigh3483 Member Posts: 5

Long story shortened:

I am nearly 1month out from uni skin/nipple sparing mastectomy w/immed ped TRAM recon now. 

Weeks ago had necrosis, now an open wound.  A wonderful visiting nurse that is a wound care specialist is going to speak to my PS about using a wound vac to speed healing (will need chemo and this MUST be healed before that can begin, time is of the essence)

While everything I read about this contraption indicates it does help with wound healing, people  also talk about it being painful, altho I've yet to find any info on its use on a reconstructed breast...while I am pretty numb I do still have feeling, especially in the wound I'm worried about sucking on a new breast that maybe isn't fully established yet, if that makes sense. 

 I'm just plain worried I guess.

Anyone heard of this application...have experiences with it?

TIA for any insight!


  • MaineCoonKitty
    MaineCoonKitty Member Posts: 9
    edited August 2009

    Yep...had one for 2 1/2 months after a mastectomy.  It did a miraculous job of reducing the wound from 27 cm X 18 cm with a depth of 3 inches to barely 4 cm X 3 cm with no depth.

    I had a HUGE Phyllodes tumor and infected breast that weighed a total of 22 lbs removed.  The wound was so huge that the plastic surgeon who consulted with my breast surgeon on the surgery suggested the wound vac.  I woke up with it already on.  It was not at all painful and I liked it because the dressing used is waterproof and completely sealed, so I could shower with it on immediately.

    It was changed 3 times a week by home visit nurses.  I named it "Dracula" because it sucked all the nasty body fluids out of the wound.  It was small and fit into a fanny pack that I wore all the time.  I could turn it off for a max of 2 hrs a day, but usually only turned it off long enough to shower.

    After 2 1/2 months, the plastic surgeon used a skin graft to close the mastectomy wound and I am left with a very flat, smooth scar that only required a small amount of skin, which was taken from the right breast in a breast reduction that I had done at the same time.  the worsth thing about the wound vac were the initial dressing changes, which are meant to debride the wound.  the 1st couple were excruiatingly painful because the sponge dressing that's applied to the wound itself actually grow into the wound and are ripped off.  That stimulates collagen and blood vessels to grow and close the wound.  But after a couple of changes, the plastic surgeon then switched to a non-stick dressing, which is not painful to remove.  All in all, the wound vac was a miracle to me.

  • Kayleigh3483
    Kayleigh3483 Member Posts: 5
    edited August 2009

    Wow, you went thru ALOT -- thank you so much for sharing your story.  My wound is no where near as deep or large as yours was originally, in fact, mine sounds like where you ended up which may be why my PS said no to the wound vac after all.  She thinks my wound is doing well on its own between me upping my protein & vitamin intake, the hyperbaric therapy and the Silvadene.  But it's good to know that the vac helped you so much, and it sounds like your results after all you endured were good. 

    Just goes to show that no matter how bad we think it is things can usually get better in the end.  That's a comfort to me :)

    Thanks again for the info!

  • sneakypie
    sneakypie Member Posts: 2
    edited September 2009

    Yes, had I-GAP reconstruction which suffered necrosis. Lost 40% of tissue. Started with manual wound dressings, then when ps decided it was time to do a major debridement of the necrotic tissue, a wound VAC was applied. A nurse came in 3x/week to change the VAC. After 5 weeks, the VAC had to be removed because of en e. faecalis infection (no one knows from where it came). The VAC had certainly speeded up the process (though one nurse seemed to do it better than another) but I underwent another surgery to suck out as much infection as possible and sew up the remaining wound. Stitches were removed two weeks later, but still did not seal up the entire wound. 6 months after the reconstructive surgery, I am still doing manual wound packing. (Reconstructive surgery on my other side has been postponed twice until this is completely healed.) Nutrition is a big issue in wound healing, so you might want to research just how much extra protein and other nutrients you will need, too. Also check the topic: "Dead Skin Repair after Flap Surgery?" for some good tips. Feel free to ask questions...

  • Bronwen
    Bronwen Member Posts: 1
    edited September 2009

    Wow and I thought 1 week with a wound vac a long time! 

    My wound vac was painful for just the first few seconds.  Once they got the pressure right, it was no trouble.  Like some of the others, mine was disconnected for showers.  I was in hospital the whole time and was allowed to go to the hospital shop with the wound vac. 

    I did find all the pumping made me excruciatingly fatigued some days.  I also became extremely hungry after a few days on it and craved cheese (was it the protein / fat I was craving).  I practically didn't stop eating for 2 days. 

  • Kayleigh3483
    Kayleigh3483 Member Posts: 5
    edited October 2009

    I wanted to update this thread...

    My visiting nurse convinced my PS to do the wound VAC after all and I am SOOOOO glad she did!!!

    The improvement has been amazing.  I really didn't imagine that the wound could heal this well, that it could draw closed and just sort of shrink.

    I've had the VAC for about 3wks, with about one more to go.

    It's not bad at all, no pain whatsoever and just a little inconvenient. 

    If anyone has wound issues this is a GREAT tool for healing...both medically and cosmetically.

  • donnajean
    donnajean Member Posts: 2
    edited July 2015

    My wound vac just arrived to my house and will have it put on tomorrow. It has been nearly a year since I had my mastectomy and have had a problem with fluid buildup ever since, although the problem really accelerated after I finished my 5 weeks of radiation. I finished my last bout of radiation in December and what happened was the radiation weakened my incision , then the pressure from having fluid built up in my breast cavity burst open the incison leaving a huge gaping wound. . A couple of weeks after radiation had finished I woke up and my shirt was just drenched. Since then I've had a nurse come every day to pack the opening .I've seen surgeon several times since this happened and she had a wound care specialist look at it and although my wound care nurse had asked for the surgeon to prescribe a wound vac , the wound nurse at surgeons office said no and to just keep packing the wound. She said to just be patient. Well it 's been 7 months and my wound is not healing. The drainage has subsided but I still have a gaping wound that doesn't want to close up. Finally my surgeon has agreed to prescribe the wound vac therapy. I hope this works otherwise I may need plastic surgery to close it I will keep you posted what happens

  • donnajean
    donnajean Member Posts: 2
    edited July 2015

    My wound vac just arrived at my house and will be put on tomorrow. It has been a nearly a year since I had my mastectomy and I have had a problem with fluid build up ever since my operation , but it really accelerated after 5 bouts of radiation. I finished my radiation last December and a few weeks later woke up soaking wet. The radiation had weakened the incision , then the fluid buildup caused the incision to rupture leaving a huge opening opening After 7 months of having a nurse come every day to pack the wound the surgeon has finally agree to let me try the wound vac therapy . I hope this works other wise I may need plastic surgery to close this opening . I will keep you posted

  • SA8PG
    SA8PG Member Posts: 280
    edited July 2015

    Hi donnajean

    I had a wound vac for 3 weeks on my right breast. The wounds healed very nicely. Honestly it reminded me of a breast pump but on all the time (but only pulled when it was first turned back on after a shower or dressing change but no pain while running continuously). I have major allergy issues with the adhesive tape and they tried everything from creams to adhesive removers etc to calm my skin but it didn't work. I was so happy to get that thing off me and let my skin breathe again. Like the others have said it does heal the wounds nicely. Mine was attached to 3 areas on my breast.

    Good luck. Please keep us posted. 😊


  • Zolo
    Zolo Member Posts: 1
    edited July 2015

    I have had one in my back after a surgical incision developed staph infection.

    They are a bit noisy but it didn't hurt.

    As a matter of fact I am wondering WHY with my history of staph & MRSA they didn't offer this option instead of a drain tube. If they had I would be going ahead with the mastectomy instead of another partial which I'm sure will probably end up as full not far down the road. I'm afraid of staph returning with just the tubes. In my case if it does and goes into the hip replacement on that side I won't be walking anymore.

    All of this is making me seek second opinion before Wed. Surgery. I would prefer to just get it over with and not make it three surgeries.

    When I had wound vac I just carried two purses. One for regular use other for wound vac!

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,202
    edited July 2015

    Hi Zolo-

    We wanted to welcome you to our community here at BCO. We're glad you've joined us, and hope you find this to be a supportive place!

    We also wanted to direct you to our Paget's forum. We don't have many members with Paget's, so you may be able to offer some insight there, or connect with other members!

    Please let us know if you have any questions, and again, welcome!

    The Mods

  • sm627
    sm627 Member Posts: 142
    edited January 2018

    I am so happy to have found this thread! I had a wound vac too. I had my mastectomy in June of 2017 for a Borderline Phyllodes that was 17cm and weighed 3lbs(know it is a baby compared to MaineCoonKitty 22lb Phyllodes). The wound vac was wonderful it healed me up so fast that I was able to get it off within a week of having surgery. I think it also helped reduce the pain too.

    I hope everyone is having a good start to 2018.



  • miranda2060
    miranda2060 Member Posts: 202
    edited January 2018

    I had my surgery eight days ago (single mastectomy and implant), and also have a wound vac. It's on a lanyard around my neck and emits a whirring sound at regular intervals. I'm sure it's helping with the healing, but have not been able to shower (sponge baths only), and the thing is heavy. I have been living in a hoodie with special inside pockets, so it goes in one of those, the drains in the other.

    I'll be having my first post-op visit with the plastic surgeon tomorrow, and hoping that maybe I can get the drains and the wound vac removed then. Looks like I will be having radiation, so hopefully the incision won't be affected by that. Many unknowns yet, but hoping for good outcomes.

    Best to all,


  • Marchz
    Marchz Member Posts: 8
    edited January 2018

    I had a wound vac for a very large deep wound that developed halfway during radiation. I had the big vac for 5 weeks and then the pico vac for 3. My breast is quite deformed from the closure but at least it finally healed. I had to wait for a few more months to have a mamogram and was very worried about the compression but seems ok. They think my wound may have been from a seroma or hematoma but noone really wants to get too involved as to why it happened. I had an awful time with the tapes and it was joyous to get it off and take full showers again. Good luck, I think they’re difficult to manage but did do the trick. I pray it never reopens.

  • miranda2060
    miranda2060 Member Posts: 202
    edited January 2018

    Mine just alarmed and shut itself off. Turns out it only runs for seven days. Put in a call to the doctor to see if I can unhook it myself before my appt. tomorrow. Would be nice to have the weight off me.

  • Marchz
    Marchz Member Posts: 8
    edited January 2018

    if it’s the pico I think it can wait ,

    The other kci one they say you can’t leave it off for more than an hour or two. Home health and wound care center said The sponges could get infected .

  • miranda2060
    miranda2060 Member Posts: 202
    edited January 2018

    Hooray, the doctor's office said I could take it off and SHOWER. Hooray, it feels so good to be clean and have washed hair. Tomorrow the drains will come out, woo hoo!

  • cancerpatient519
    cancerpatient519 Member Posts: 1
    edited May 2018

    Bilateral Breast Surgery on March 2 and the events that followed are, swollen like knuckles on both breasts area..tolerable paid..Bandages changed regularly,a hematoma was forming on the right side,drains still in,and one drain was removed and the right one left in and it slowed down. During my changing of the bandages I removed the bra,with in seconds I could not breathe thru the mouth at all! I thought of my breathing and tried thru the nose..It worked,I drove to ER and told them what had happened and still could not breathe,they treated me for COPD..was admitted,never changed dressings,after awhile just laying there not doing anything I felt better. So, I went home..a few days later again could not breathe, went to ER again,this time they sent me home with oxygen..That night couldn't sleep,got up made a cup of coffee put it down and walked away and something made me look down,,blood drops..I thought maybe I loosened the drain,,all of a sudden blood was pouring out..I have no idea where from just that it was pouring out all over the place..I called a nurse and told her I think the Hematoma burst out or something..she said call ambulance, I said no too expensive how do I get this to stop..and asked if she could come..she said no she couldn't come,practically begged but nope..well then how do I stop it. She said grab as many gause and put pressure on it..I did that for awhile and it finally stopped..Got dressed put an extra towel on and left the house and drove to ER again..Breathing and Blood ..They admitted me and performed surgery on the right side..Now the left breast bandages have been sticking before and after the debrasing and has formed a hugh hole,they stuff it with something to absorb and it has caused it to get larger. The surgeon now is planning on a wound vac,cant do it until insurance approves..So everyday now the wound care nurses come , clean it out and put more stuff in it to right side has an crease in it that has to have peroxide..just sharing this experience with others so you know its not easy is 4/27 well over a month and it seems that issues are still coming up...Cant wait to wear normal tops,take a decent shower with out worrying..

    Does the wound Vac effect your lungs? just got the wound vac and thank you your right..its ok

    went to follow up with surgeon Monday about the wound itself and was admitted thru the ER and stayed for surgery and thats when would vac was put on..had to stay extra day for the wound vac..Home Now..

  • mustlovepoodles
    mustlovepoodles Member Posts: 1,248
    edited April 2018

    No, a wound vac is on the skin surface only. It has no impact on the lungs at all. I'm not sure what to think about the other stuff.

    I had a wound vac for 7 weeks following my BMX. It's a pain in the butt, but it wasn't a LITERAL pain. Just aggravating as hell. I have to say, once my doctor stopped fooling around with the standard wet-to-dry dressings and went to the wound vac, my wound got smaller relatively quickly. I know that 7 weeks sounds like a long time, but it would have taken MUCH, MUCh longer without it. We stopped the wound vac at 7 weeks only because I had to go out of town for a conference. I switched to a difference kind of dressing during that time and did so well that my doctor decided not to put the wound vac on me again. My wounds still took another 10 weeks to completely heal, but it was significantly better by week 7, as compared to week 1 (when it looked absolutely HORRIBLE.)

  • tacichon
    tacichon Member Posts: 3
    edited February 2021

    Hello ladies. I had Diep Flap surgery on 12-15-2020. Around 1-7-2021 I was re-admitted into the hospital for a very bad infection in my right breast. This breast had a lumpectomy and radiation in 2011 and my Dr believes that was the risk. I left the hospital with a wound vac and I have had for the last five weeks. My Dr mentioned that I will probably have to have skin grafting and maybe decreast the size of the left breast to match the right one. Has anyone had this procedure before. I am looking for all the information I can get. As in how long in the hospital, do you have a drain after this surgery etc.

    Thank you all so much for the support!


  • typhoon
    typhoon Member Posts: 59
    edited February 2021

    Yes, my plastic surgeon used the Prevena wound vac system instead of bandages/dressings when she did my skin/nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy. I had the system on for 6 days after surgery. When it came off, the only bandages I used subsequently were small gauze pads (with antibiotic cream) on the incisions for my surgical drains (and these came out 6 days later). The mastectomy incisions were completely closed when the wound vac system came off, I had no issues with necrosis or blood flow to the nipples, and everything healed up quickly and (IMO) beautifully. The power pack was a bit of a nuisance to carry around, but I was able to shower with it on and running, and it only needed to be plugged into the charger for about 30 minutes every day. The wound vac system did not give me any discomfort at all.