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J Vasc Surg. 2006 Nov;44(5):1118-25.

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of wound dressings for chronic venous ulcer.

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Vascular Service and the Center for Wound Healing, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.



To determine whether more "modern" complex wound dressings further improve the healing of venous ulcers over that with simple wound dressings, we conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of wound dressing trials that were published from October 1, 1997, through September 1, 2005.


We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry Database to identify RCTs. Criteria for ultimate selection included treatment with compression and an objective outcome describing the proportion of wounds healed. Twenty RCTs were identified that satisfied these criteria and were classified into three wound dressing classes: semiocclusive/occlusive group (n = 8), growth factor group (n = 7), and human skin equivalent group (n = 5).


Assessment of study design quality for the 20 RCTs showed a low percentage (<49%) of RCTs that incorporated at least 3 of 7 indicators of trial quality, but it seemed better in the 5 RCTs that showed significance for ulcer healing; 4 of the studies used at least 6 of the 7 characteristics of adequate study design. Five (25%) of the 20 RCTs had a statistically significantly improved proportion of ulcers healed in the experimental dressing group over control values: zinc oxide paste bandage (79% vs 56%) and Tegasorb (59% vs 15%) in the semiocclusive/occlusive group and perilesional injection of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (57% vs 19%) and porcine collagen derived from small-intestine submucosa (Oasis; 55% vs 34%) in the growth factor group. In the sole significant RCT from the human skin equivalent group, Apligraf (63%) was superior to Tegapore (48%). Four of these five studies also showed an improved time to complete healing by Kaplan-Meier estimate.


Certain wound dressings can improve both the proportion of ulcers healed and the time to healing over that achieved with adequate compression and a simple wound dressing. The selection of a specific dressing, however, will depend on the dressing characteristics for ease of application, patient comfort, wound drainage absorption, and expense.

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