Compression bandages or stockings versus no compression for treating venous leg ulcers: Intervention review

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Abstract

BackgroundLeg ulcers are open skin wounds on the lower leg that can last weeks, months or even years. Most leg ulcers are the result of venous diseases. First‐line treatment options often include the use of compression bandages or stockings.ObjectivesTo assess the effects of using compression bandages or stockings, compared with no compression, on the healing of venous leg ulcers in any setting and population.Search methodsIn June 2020 we searched the Cochrane Wounds Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Ovid MEDLINE (including In‐Process & Other Non‐Indexed Citations), Ovid Embase and EBSCO CINAHL Plus. We also searched clinical trials registries for ongoing and unpublished studies, and scanned reference lists of relevant included studies as well as reviews, meta‐analyses and health technology reports to identify additional studies. There were no restrictions by language, date of publication or study setting.Selection criteriaWe included randomised controlled trials that compared any types of compression bandages or stockings with no compression in participants with venous leg ulcers in any setting.Data collection and analysisAt least two review authors independently assessed studies using predetermined inclusion criteria. We carried out data extraction, and risk‐of‐bias assessment using the Cochrane risk‐of‐bias tool. We assessed the certainty of the evidence according to GRADE methodology.Main resultsWe included 14 studies (1391 participants) in the review. Most studies were small (median study sample size: 51 participants). Participants were recruited from acute‐care settings, outpatient settings and community settings, and a large proportion (65.9%; 917/1391) of participants had a confirmed history or clinical evidence of chronic venous disease, a confirmed cause of chronic venous insufficiency, or an ankle pressure/brachial pressure ratio of greater than 0.8 or 0.9. The average age of participants ranged from 58.0 to 76.5 years (median: 70.1 years). The average duration of their leg ulcers ranged from 9.0 weeks to 31.6 months (median: 22.0 months), and a large proportion of participants (64.8%; 901/1391) had ulcers with an area between 5 and 20 cm2. Studies had a median follow‐up of 12 weeks. Compression bandages or stockings applied included short‐stretch bandage, four‐layer compression bandage, and Unna's boot (a type of inelastic gauze bandage impregnated with zinc oxide), and comparator groups used included 'usual care', pharmacological treatment, a variety of dressings, and a variety of treatments where some participants received compression (but it was not the norm). Of the 14 included studies, 10 (71.4%) presented findings which we consider to be at high overall risk of bias.Primary outcomesThere is moderate‐certainty evidence (downgraded once for risk of bias) (1) that there is probably a shorter time to complete healing of venous leg ulcers in people wearing compression bandages or stockings compared with those not wearing compression (pooled hazard ratio for time‐to‐complete healing 2.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.52 to 3.10; I2 = 59%; 5 studies, 733 participants); and (2) that people treated using compression bandages or stockings are more likely to experience complete ulcer healing within 12 months compared with people with no compression (10 studies, 1215 participants): risk ratio for complete healing 1.77, 95% CI 1.41 to 2.21; I2 = 65% (8 studies with analysable data, 1120 participants); synthesis without meta‐analysis suggests more completely‐healed ulcers in compression bandages or stockings than in no compression (2 studies without analysable data, 95 participants).It is uncertain whether there is any difference in rates of adverse events between using compression bandages or stockings and no compression (very low‐certainty evidence; 3 studies, 585 participants).Secondary outcomesModerate‐certainty evidence suggests that people using compression bandages or stockings probably have a lower mean pain score than those not using compression (four studies with 859 participants and another study with 69 ulcers): pooled mean difference −1.39, 95% CI −1.79 to −0.98; I2 = 65% (two studies with 426 participants and another study with 69 ulcers having analysable data); synthesis without meta‐analysis suggests a reduction in leg ulcer pain in compression bandages or stockings, compared with no compression (two studies without analysable data, 433 participants). Compression bandages or stockings versus no compression may improve disease‐specific quality of life, but not all aspects of general health status during the follow‐up of 12 weeks to 12 months (four studies with 859 participants; low‐certainty evidence).It is uncertain if the use of compression bandages or stockings is more cost‐effective than not using them (three studies with 486 participants; very low‐certainty evidence).

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Volume2021
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021

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