Vaughan led England to a 2-1 Ashes triumph in 2005 -- their first Test series victory over arch-rivals Australia for 19 years.
But the knee problem that has blighted the Yorkshire batsman's career required a fourth operation which took place earlier this month and ruled him out of the rest of the England home season.
The selectors have already started planning for an Ashes tour without Vaughan, although it has been suggested the 31-year-old could play in some of the One-day internationals at the end of the trip in a bid to take part in the World Cup, which starts in the Caribbean in March.
"I have real hope I'll get better. I'll do all the hard work and I believe there'll be another day when Michael Vaughan takes the field in an England shirt," Vaughan told Britain's Mail on Sunday tabloid.
"But I have to be realistic. I've read I might never play again -- and that might be the case.
"There are no guarantees. There is an area of the knee that's very worn -- and there was a split in the cartilage," Vaughan added.
"They tell me the operation has been successful, but they'll only know for certain after rehab."
The first Ashes Test gets under way at Brisbane in November and with Vaughan aiming to return in either December of January, he said there was just the slightest chance he could play a role in Australia.
However, asked if he would be in the tour party, Vaughan admitted: "Probably not but I'm going to hang on to that dream."
England, since the Ashes, have also been captained by Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff and current skipper Andrew Strauss.
Flintoff, the man England chiefs want to lead the team in Australia in Vaughan's absence, is currently sidelined with a longstanding ankle injury, which has also required recent surgery.
He and Vaughan are on an England injury list which also includes fellow Ashes-winners Simon Jones (knee) and Ashley Giles (hip).
But Alastair Cook, the man presently batting in Vaughan's number three slot, has ensured that while the former captain himself may have been missed his runs haven't, with the left-hander scoring three hundreds in his first seven Tests.
The 21-year-old Essex batsman's 127 was a key factor in England's innings and 120 run win in the second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford concluded Saturday, a result that left the hosts 1-0 up in the four-match series with two to play.
Victory, with more than two days to spare, also owed much to the performance of left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, Giles's replacement, who took a Test-best five for 72 in Pakistan's second innings.