Compression for venous leg ulcers.

Susan O'Meara, Nicky Cullum, E. Andrea Nelson, J. C. Dumville

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Up to one percent of people in industrialised countries will suffer from a leg ulcer at some time. The majority of these leg ulcers are due to problems in the veins, resulting in an accumulation of blood in the legs. Leg ulcers arising from venous problems are called venous (or varicose or stasis) ulcers. The main treatment is the application of a firm compression garment (bandage or stocking) in order to aid venous return. There is a large number of compression garments available and it was unclear whether they are effective in treating venous ulcers and, if so, which method of compression is the most effective. To undertake a systematic review of all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effects on venous ulcer healing of compression bandages and stockings.Specific questions addressed by the review are:1. Does the application of compression bandages or stockings aid venous ulcer healing? 2. Which compression bandage or stocking system is the most effective? For this second update we searched: the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (31 May 2012); the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 5, 2012); Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to May Week 4 2012); Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations 30 May 2012); Ovid EMBASE (1980 to 2012 Week 21); and EBSCO CINAHL (1982 to 30 May 2012). No date or language restrictions were applied. RCTs recruiting people with venous leg ulceration that evaluated any type of compression bandage system or compression stockings were eligible for inclusion. Eligible comparators included no compression (e.g. primary dressing alone, non-compressive bandage) or an alternative type of compression. RCTs had to report an objective measure of ulcer healing in order to be included (primary outcome for the review). Secondary outcomes of the review included ulcer recurrence, costs, quality of life, pain, adverse events and withdrawals. There was no restriction on date, language or publication status of RCTs. Details of eligible studies were extracted and summarised using a data extraction table. Data extraction was performed by one review author and verified independently by a second review author. Forty-eight RCTs reporting 59 comparisons were included (4321 participants in total). Most RCTs were small, and most were at unclear or high risk of bias. Duration of follow-up varied across RCTs. Risk ratio (RR) and other estimates are shown below where RCTs were pooled; otherwise findings refer to a single RCT.There was evidence from eight RCTs (unpooled) that healing outcomes (including time to healing) are better when patients receive compression compared with no compression.Single-component compression bandage systems are less effective than multi-component compression for complete healing at six months (one large RCT).A two-component system containing an elastic bandage healed more ulcers at one year than one without an elastic component (one small RCT).Three-component systems containing an elastic component healed more ulcers than those without elastic at three to four months (two RCTs pooled), RR 1.83 (95% CI 1.26 to 2.67), but another RCT showed no difference between groups at six months.An individual patient data meta-analysis of five RCTs suggested significantly faster healing with the four-layer bandage (4LB) than the short stretch bandage (SSB): median days to healing estimated at 90 and 99 respectively; hazard ratio 1.31 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.58).High-compression stockings are associated with better healing outcomes than SSB at two to four months: RR 1.62 (95% CI 1.26 to 2.10), estimate from four pooled RCTs.One RCT suggested better healing outcomes at 16 months with the addition of a tubular device plus single elastic bandage to a base system of gauze and crepe bandages when compared with two added elastic bandages.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)CD000265
    JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online : Update Software)
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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