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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD001737.

Skin grafting for venous leg ulcers.

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Venous leg ulceration is a recurrent, chronic, disabling condition. It affects up to one in 100 adults at some time. Standard treatments are simple dressings and compression bandages or stockings. Sometimes, despite treatment, ulcers remain open for months or years. Sometimes skin grafts are used to stimulate healing. These may be taken, or grown into a dressing, from the patient's own uninjured skin (autografts), or applied as a sheet of bioengineered skin grown from donor cells (allograft). Preserved skin from other animals, such as pigs, has also been used (xenografts).


To assess the effect of skin grafts for treating venous leg ulcers.


We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (February 2006) and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2006).


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of skin grafts in the treatment of venous leg ulcers.


Two reviewers independently undertook data extraction and assessment of study quality.


We identified 15 trials - generally of poor methodological quality - involving 768 participants. In 11 trials participants also received compression bandaging. One trial (31 participants) compared a dressing with an autograft. Three trials (74 participants) compared frozen allografts with dressings, and three trials (47 participants) compared fresh allografts with dressings. Two trials (345 participants) compared tissue-engineered skin (bilayer artificial skin) with a dressing. In two trials (71 participants) a single-layer dermal replacement was compared with standard care. Four trials compared skin grafting techniques: one trial (92 participants) compared autografts with frozen allograft, a second (51 participants) compared a pinch graft (autograft) with a porcine dermis (xenograft), the third (seven participants, 12 ulcers) compared tissue-engineered skin with a split-thickness graft, the fourth (10 participants) compared a fresh allograft with a frozen allograft. The trials comparing bilayer artificial skin with a dressing reported a significantly higher proportion of ulcers healing with artificial skin. There was not enough evidence from the other trials to determine whether other types of skin grafting increased the healing of venous ulcers.


Bilayer artificial skin, used in conjunction with compression bandaging, increases the chance of healing a venous ulcer compared with compression and a simple dressing. Further research is needed to assess whether other forms of skin grafts increase ulcer healing.

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