Systematic reviews of wound care management: (5) beds; (6) compression; (7) laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy and electromagnetic therapy

Authors: Cullum N, Nelson EA, Flemming K, Sheldon T

Journal: Health Technology Assessment Volume: 5 Issue: 9

Publication date: May 2001



Cullum N, Nelson EA, Flemming K, Sheldon T.Systematic reviews of wound care management: (5) beds; (6) compression; (7) laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy and electromagnetic therapy. Health Technol Assess 2001;5(9)

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This report (Vol 5:9) 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 4:21.

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Chronic wounds such as leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and pressure sores are common in both acute and community healthcare settings. The prevention and treatment of these wounds involves many strategies: pressure-relieving beds, mattresses and cushions are universally used as measures for the prevention and treatment of pressure sores; compression therapy in a variety of forms is widely used for venous leg ulcer prevention and treatment; and a whole range of therapies involving laser, ultrasound and electricity is also applied to chronic wounds. This report covers the final three reviews from a series of seven.


To assess the clinical effectiveness and cost- effectiveness of: (1) pressure-relieving beds, mattresses and cushions for pressure sore prevention and treatment; (2) compression therapy for the prevention and treatment of leg ulcers; (3) low-level laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy and electromagnetic therapy for the treatment of chronic wounds. METHODS - DATA SOURCES: Nineteen electronic databases, including MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (CENTRAL), were searched. Relevant journals, conference proceedings and bibliographies of retrieved papers were handsearched. An expert panel was also consulted. METHODS - STUDY SELECTION: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) which evaluated these interventions were eligible for inclusion in this review if they used objective measures of outcome such as wound incidence or healing rates. RESULTS - BEDS, MATTRESSES AND CUSHIONS FOR PRESSURE SORE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT: A total of 45 RCTs were identified, of which 40 compared different mattresses, mattress overlays and beds. Only two trials evaluated cushions, one evaluated the use of sheepskins, and two looked at turning beds/kinetic therapy. RESULTS - COMPRESSION FOR LEG ULCERS: A total of 24 trials reporting 26 comparisons were included (two of prevention and 24 of treatment strategies). RESULTS - LOW-LEVEL LASER THERAPY, THERAPEUTIC ULTRASOUND, ELECTROTHERAPY AND ELECTROMAGNETIC THERAPY: Four RCTs of laser (for venous leg ulcers), 10 of therapeutic ultrasound (for pressure sores and venous leg ulcers), 12 of electrotherapy (for ischaemic and diabetic ulcers, and chronic wounds generally) and five of electromagnetic therapy (for venous leg ulcers and pressure sores) were included. Studies were generally small, and of poor methodological quality. CONCLUSIONS (1) Foam alternatives to the standard hospital foam mattress can reduce the incidence of pressure sores in people at risk, as can pressure-relieving overlays on the operating table. One study suggests that air-fluidised therapy may increase pressure sore healing rates. (2) Compression is more effective in healing venous leg ulcers than is no compression, and multi-layered high compression is more effective than single-layer compression. High-compression hosiery was more effective than moderate compression in preventing ulcer recurrence. (3) There is generally insufficient reliable evidence to draw conclusions about the contribution of laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy and electromagnetic therapy to chronic wound healing.

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