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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD001733.

Pentoxifylline for treating venous leg ulcers.

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University of Auckland, Clinical Trials Research Unit, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.

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Healing of venous leg ulcers is improved by the use of compression bandaging but some venous ulcers remain unhealed, and some people are unsuitable for compression therapy. Pentoxifylline, a drug which helps blood flow, has been used to treat venous leg ulcers. An earlier version of this review included 9 randomised controlled trials, but more research has been since been conducted and an updated review is required.


To assess the effects of pentoxifylline (oxpentifylline or Trental 400) for treating venous leg ulcers, compared with placebo, or other therapies, in the presence or absence of compression therapy.


For this second update we searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cinahl (date of last search was February 2007), and reference lists of relevant articles.


Randomised trials comparing pentoxifylline with placebo or other therapy in the presence or absence of compression, in people with venous leg ulcers.


Details from eligible trials were extracted and summarised by one author using a coding sheet. Data extraction was independently verified by one other author.


Twelve trials involving 864 participants were included. The quality of trials was variable. Eleven trials compared pentoxifylline with placebo or no treatment; in seven of these trials patients received compression therapy. In one trial pentoxifylline was compared with defibrotide in patients who also received compression. Combining 11 trials that compared pentoxifylline with placebo or no treatment (with or without compression) demonstrated that pentoxifylline is more effective than placebo in terms of complete ulcer healing or significant improvement (RR 1.70, 95% CI 1.30 to 2.24). Significant heterogeneity was associated with differences in sample populations (hard-to-heal samples compared with "normal" healing samples). Pentoxifylline plus compression is more effective than placebo plus compression (RR 1.56, 95% CI 1.14 to 2.13). Pentoxifylline in the absence of compression appears to be more effective than placebo or no treatment (RR 2.25, 95% CI 1.49 to 3.39). A comparison between pentoxifylline and defibrotide found no statistically significant difference in healing rates. More adverse effects were reported in people receiving pentoxifylline (RR 1.56, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.22). Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the reported adverse effects were gastrointestinal.


Pentoxifylline is an effective adjunct to compression bandaging for treating venous ulcers and may be effective in the absence of compression. The majority of adverse effects were gastrointestinal disturbances.

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