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Volatile Organic Compounds in the Early Diagnosis of Non-healing Surgical Wounds: A Systematic Review

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-17, 13:30 authored by Nicola Reeves, Samuel Phillips, Aron Hughes, Sarah Maddocks, Matthew Bates, Jared Torkington, Lori Robins, Julie Cornish



The normal healing of surgical wounds can be disrupted by infection and/or dehiscence, leading to development of chronic, non-healing wounds (NHW). Diagnosis of NHWs is via clinical acumen and analysis of microbiology wound swabs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted generally by human subjects and specifically as products of bacterial metabolism and are detected in the wound area. This systematic review will assess the potential use of VOCs released by surgical wounds as a non-invasive method for identifying bacterial species and the progression to NHW.


A systematic search of studies, via PRISMA guidelines, was conducted. Of 220 papers screened, seven studies were included. Outcome data were extracted on methods for VOC analysis and wound/bacterial VOC profiles.


The studies have shown that VOC profiles are identified by two methods: gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and electronic nose. There are VOC profiles associated with causative bacterial species, with early indications that they could be anatomically specific or could monitor treatment effects.


VOC profiling of bacterial species within wounds is possible and could become a point of care test. More research is needed on specific VOC profiles to wound location and whether these profiles may predict progression to NHW.


Published in

World Journal of Surgery




  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Reeves, N., Phillips, S., Hughes, A., Maddocks, S., Bates, M., Torkington, J., Robins, L. and Cornish, J. (2022) 'Volatile Organic Compounds in the Early Diagnosis of Non-healing Surgical Wounds: A Systematic Review', World Journal of Surgery, pp.1-9. DOI: 10.1007/s00268-022-06548-3

Electronic ISSN


Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Sarah Maddocks

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Microbiology & Infection

Copyright Holder

  • © The Publisher


  • en

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