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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Apr 30;4:CD010182. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010182.pub2.

Alginate dressings for venous leg ulcers.

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  • 1Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Area 2 Seebohm Rowntree Building, Heslington, York, UK, YO10 5DD.

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Venous leg ulcers are a common and recurring type of chronic, complex wound associated with considerable cost to patients and healthcare providers. To aid healing, primary wound contact dressings are usually applied to ulcers beneath compression devices. Alginate dressings are used frequently and there is a variety of alginate products on the market, however, the evidence base to guide dressing choice is sparse.


To determine the effects of alginate dressings compared with alternative dressings, non-dressing treatments or no dressing, with or without concurrent compression therapy, on the healing of venous leg ulcers.


We searched The Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (searched 30 November 2012); The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 11); The NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 5); Ovid MEDLINE (1946 to November Week 2 2012); Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations November 29, 2012); Ovid EMBASE (1980 to 2011 Week 11); and EBSCO CINAHL (1982 to 23 November 2012). There were no restrictions based on language or date of publication.


Published or unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the effects of any type of alginate dressing in the treatment of venous ulcers were included.


Two review authors independently performed study selection, data extraction and risk of bias assessment. Meta-analysis was undertaken when deemed feasible and appropriate.


Five RCTs (295 participants) were included in this review. Overall risk of bias was high for two RCTs and unclear for three. One RCT compared different proprietary alginate dressings (20 participants), three compared alginate and hydrocolloid dressings (215 participants), and one compared alginate and plain non-adherent dressings (60 participants). Follow-up periods were six weeks in three RCTs and 12 weeks in two. No statistically significant between-group differences were detected for any comparison, for any healing outcome. Meta-analysis was feasible for one comparison (alginate and hydrocolloid dressings), with data from two RCTs (84 participants) pooled for complete healing at six weeks: risk ratio 0.42 (95% confidence interval 0.14 to 1.21). Adverse event profiles were generally similar between groups (not assessed for alginate versus plain non-adherent dressings).


The current evidence base does not suggest that alginate dressings are more or less effective in the healing of venous leg ulcers than hydrocolloid or plain non-adherent dressings, and there is no evidence to indicate a difference between different proprietary alginate dressings. However, the RCTs in this area are considered to be of low or unclear methodological quality. Further, good quality evidence is required from well designed and rigorously conducted RCTs that employ - and clearly report on - methods to minimise bias, prior to any definitive conclusions being made regarding the efficacy of alginate dressings in the management of venous leg ulcers.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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