Katherine Jeter and the Origins of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy

Katherine F Jeter, EdD, ET is one of the chartering members of the WOCN Society (formerly the IAET) and has been a leader in the Society at the regional and national level

She began her career in 1968 as one of the first Enterostomal Therapists, and has since earned numerous degrees and experience in the world of wounds, ostomies and continence. Among other accolades, Dr. Jeter is a renowned published author and lecturer.                                         

On October 31, 1985, Dr. Jeter was tasked with the management of an ICU patient with a large midline wound, complicated by a gastrointestinal fistula. After trying to understand the situation, Jeter concluded that she needed to contain the drainage, and the unexpected result was the discovery of a revolutionary new wound care method.

There was a sense of urgency about the patient’s case and a clear need to solve this issue quickly. However, the process ultimately required about five hours to provide the solution that resulted in a notable outcome for the patient.

Jeter made several trips up and down several floors to materials management for the supplies to do something that had never been done before. The practice of moist wound healing was already well-established, but it didn’t address the amount of drainage from this particular wound. Jeter decided to use a Jackson-Pratt mini-Snyder drain cut to fit down the midline of the open wound and another drain across the base of the wound.  The wound was then covered with moist gauze and sealed under a transparent film dressing with pink tape.

Origins of NPWT

Using wall suction, the only suction method available, took a little trial and error. Ultimately the suction was set to 60 mmHg. This setting kept the dressing tight to the skin and contained the drainage.

On day two of the patient’s treatment the dressing was still intact. Jeter cleaned the wound and requested that a few of the retention sutures be removed. With the removal of the sutures, Jeter saw that the skin had indeed improved and she was better able to clean the area and recreate the dressing from the previous evening.

Jeter says what still sticks with her today is how much time and contact she had with this patient.

She had the opportunity to stroke his arms, clean and care for his wound, watch the skin heal and comfort him in a way that she didn’t often get with most patients. She says that it is a privilege for any caregiver to comfort a patient that is so sick and in such pain.

In just eight days the fistula had closed. A month later the wound had closed into a thin straight scar with no herniation. Jeter was so amazed she would call other nurses and physicians to come in and see how the wound had healed. They were equally impressed with the results for this patient, and remained on the lookout for other cases that would be appropriate for this innovative therapy.

Jeter would go on to repeat this procedure on numerous additional patients, with consistently  impressive results. Please continue watching the video for these history-making stories.

Jeter could have created a patent for this new procedure, but she didn’t. It was more important to her that clinicians have the opportunity to use the procedure as quickly as possible and that patients have the opportunity to benefit from this treatment innovation.

Within weeks of the successful treatment of the first patient, Jeter was showing slides of the wound healing procedure and the results of this treatment, making her system public knowledge. By late 1985 Jeter had described the procedure to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of nurses and physicians at educational seminars and in written publications.

The method of wound therapy that she cobbled together in a moment of need in 1985 is what we call now Negative Pressure Wound Therapy.

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