Reconstructive surgery for treating pressure ulcers

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BACKGROUND: There are several possible interventions for managing pressure ulcers (sometimes referred to as pressure injuries), ranging from pressure-relieving measures, such as repositioning, to reconstructive surgery. The surgical approach is usually reserved for recalcitrant wounds (where the healing process has stalled, or the wound is not responding to treatment) or wounds with full-thickness skin loss and exposure of deeper structures such as muscle fascia or bone. Reconstructive surgery commonly involves wound debridement followed by filling the wound with new tissue. Whilst this is an accepted means of ulcer management, the benefits and harms of different surgical approaches, compared with each other or with non-surgical treatments, are unclear. This is an update of a Cochrane Review published in 2016.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of different types of reconstructive surgery for treating pressure ulcers (category/stage II or above), compared with no surgery or alternative reconstructive surgical approaches, in any care setting.

SEARCH METHODS: We used standard, extensive Cochrane search methods. The latest search date was January 2022.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Published or unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed reconstructive surgery in the treatment of pressure ulcers.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently selected the studies, extracted study data, assessed the risk of bias and undertook GRADE assessments. We would have involved a third review author in case of disagreement.

MAIN RESULTS: We identified one RCT conducted in a hospital setting in the USA. It enrolled 20 participants aged between 20 and 70 years with stage IV ischial or sacral pressure ulcers (involving full-thickness skin and tissue loss). The study compared two reconstructive techniques for stage IV pressure ulcers: conventional flap surgery and cone of pressure flap surgery, in which a large portion of the flap tip is de-epithelialised and deeply inset to obliterate dead space. There were no clear data for any of our outcomes, although we extracted some information on complete wound healing, wound dehiscence, pressure ulcer recurrence and wound infection. We graded the evidence for these outcomes as very low-certainty. The study provided no data for any other outcomes.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Currently there is very little randomised evidence on the role of reconstructive surgery in pressure ulcer management, although it is considered a priority area. More rigorous and robust research is needed to explore this intervention.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022


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