Dressings and topical agents for arterial leg ulcers


Main idea: There is insufficient evidence to determine whether the choice of topical agent or dressing affects the healing of arterial leg ulcers.


Background: It is estimated that up to 1% of people in high-income countries suffer from a leg ulcer at some time in their life. The majority of leg ulcers are associated with circulation problems; poor blood return in the veins causes venous ulcers (around 70% of ulcers) and poor blood supply to the legs causes arterial ulcers (around 22% of ulcers). Treatment of arterial leg ulcers is directed towards correcting poor arterial blood supply, for example by correcting arterial blockages (either surgically or pharmaceutically). If the blood supply has been restored, these arterial ulcers can heal following principles of good wound-care. Dressings and topical agents make up a part of good wound-care for arterial ulcers, but there are many products available, and it is unclear what impact these have on ulcer healing. This is the third update of a review first published in 2003.Objective of the study was to determine whether topical agents and wound dressings affect healing in arterial ulcers. To compare healing rates and patient-centred outcomes between wound dressings and topical agents.

Main results: Two trials met the inclusion criteria. One compared 2% ketanserin ointment in polyethylene glycol (PEG) with PEG alone, used twice a day by 40 participants with arterial leg ulcers, for eight weeks or until healing, whichever was sooner. One compared topical application of blood-derived concentrated growth factor (CGF) with standard dressing (polyurethane film or foam); both applied weekly for six weeks by 61 participants with non-healing ulcers (venous, diabetic arterial, neuropathic, traumatic, or vasculitic). Both trials were small, reported results inadequately, and were of low methodological quality. Short follow-up times (six and eight weeks) meant it would be difficult to capture sufficient healing events to allow us to make comparisons between treatments. One trial demonstrated accelerated wound healing in the ketanserin group compared with the control group. In the trial that compared CGF with standard dressings, the number of participants with diabetic arterial ulcers were only reported in the CGF group (9/31), and the number of participants with diabetic arterial ulcers and their data were not reported separately for the standard dressing group. In the CGF group, 66.6% (6/9) of diabetic arterial ulcers showed more than a 50% decrease in ulcer size compared to 6.7% (2/30) of non-healing ulcers treated with standard dressing. We assessed this as very-low certainty evidence due to the small number of studies and arterial ulcer participants, inadequate reporting of methodology and data, and short follow-up period. Only one trial reported side effects (complications), stating that no participant experienced these during follow-up (six weeks, low-certainty evidence). It should also be noted that ketanserin is not licensed in all countries for use in humans. Neither study reported time to ulcer healing, patient satisfaction or quality of life.


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