Systematic reviews of wound care management: (3) antimicrobial agents for chronic wounds; (4) diabetic foot ulceration

Authors: O'Meara S, Cullum N, Majid M, Sheldon T

Journal: Health Technology Assessment Volume: 4 Issue: 21

Publication date: January 2001



O'Meara S, Cullum N, Majid M, Sheldon T.Systematic reviews of wound care management: (3) antimicrobial agents for chronic wounds; (4) diabetic foot ulceration. Health Technol Assess 2001;4(21)

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This report (Vol 4:21) is part of a series of systematic reviews arising from HTA project 93/29/01 (Systematic Review of Wound Care). Other reports in the series:Vol 3:17(1); Vol 3:17(2) ;Vol 5:9.

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Chronic wounds, including pressure sores, leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and other kinds of wounds, healing by secondary intention are common in both acute and community settings. The prevention and treatment of chronic wounds includes many strategies, including the use of various wound dressings, bandages, antimicrobial agents, footwear, physical therapies and educational strategies. This review is one of a series of reviews, and focuses on the prevention and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers and the role of antimicrobial agents in chronic wounds in general.


To assess the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of (1) prevention and treatment strategies for diabetic foot ulcers and (2) systemic and topical antimicrobial agents in the prevention and healing of chronic wounds. METHODS - DATA SOURCES: Nineteen electronic databases were searched, including MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase and the Cochrane Library. Relevant journals, conference proceedings and bibliographies of retrieved papers were hand-searched. An expert panel was consulted. METHODS - STUDY SELECTION: Randomised and non-randomised trials with a concurrent control group, which evaluated any intervention for the prevention or treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, or systemic or topical antimicrobials for chronic wounds (diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, leg ulcers of various aetiologies, pilonidal sinuses, non-healing surgical wounds, and cavity wounds) and used objective measures of outcome such as: (1) development or resolution of callus; (2) incidence of ulceration (for diabetic foot ulcer prevention studies); (3) incidence of pressure sores (pressure sore prevention studies); (4) any objective measure of wound healing (frequency of complete healing, change in wound size, time to healing, rate of healing); (5) ulcer recurrence rates; (6) side-effects; (7) amputation rates (diabetic foot ulcer treatment studies); (8) healing rates and recurrence of disease, among others, for pilonidal sinuses. Studies reporting solely microbiological outcomes were excluded. Decisions on the inclusion of primary studies were made independently by two reviewers. Disagreements were resolved through discussion. Data were extracted by one reviewer into structured summary tables. Data extraction was checked independently by a second reviewer and discrepancies resolved by discussion. All included studies were assessed against a comprehensive checklist for methodological quality. INCLUDED STUDIES - DIABETIC FOOT ULCERS: Thirty-nine trials which evaluated various prevention and treatment modalities for diabetic foot ulcers: footwear (2), hosiery (1), education (5), screening and foot protection programme (1); podiatry (1) for the prevention of diabetic foot ulcers; and footwear (1), skin replacement (2), hyperbaric oxygen (2), ketanserin (3), prostaglandins (3), growth factors (5), dressings and topical applications (9), debridement (2) and antibiotics (2) for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. INCLUDED STUDIES - ANTIMICROBIALS: Thirty studies were included, 25 with a randomised design. There were nine evaluations of systemic antimicrobials and 21 of topical agents. QUALITY OF STUDIES: The methodological and reporting quality was generally poor. Commonly encountered problems of reporting included lack of clarity about randomisation and outcome measurement procedures, and lack of baseline descriptive data. Common methodological weaknesses included: lack of blinded outcome assessment and lack of adjustment for baseline differences in important variables such as wound size; large loss to follow-up; and no intention-to-treat analysis. RESULTS - PREVENTION OF DIABETIC FOOT ULCERS: There is some evidence (1 large trial) that a screening and foot protection programme reduces the rate of major amputations. The evidence for special footwear (2 small trials) and educational programmes (5 trials) is equivocal. A single trial of podiatric care reported a significantly greater reduction in callus in patients receiving podiatric care. RESULTS - TREATMENT OF DIABETIC FOOT ULCERS: Total contact casting healed significantly more ulcers than did standard treatment in one study. There is evidence from 5 trials of topical growth factors to suggest that these, particularly platelet-derived growth factor, may increase the healing rate of diabetic foot ulcers. Although these studies were of relatively good quality, the sample sizes were far too small to make any definitive conclusions, and growth factors should be compared with current standard treatments in large, multicentre studies. Topical ketanserin increased ulcer healing rate in 2 studies, while systemic hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduced the rate of major amputations in 1 study. Preliminary research into the effects of iloprost and prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) on diabetic foot ulcer healing suggests possible benefits. However, good quality, large-scale confirmatory research is needed. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

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