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Wound cleansing for treating venous leg ulcers
Background: Leg ulcers are open skin wounds that occur below the knee but above the foot. The majority of leg ulcers are venous in origin, occurring as a result of venous insufficiency, where the flow of blood through the veins is impaired; they commonly arise due to blood clots and varicose veins. Compression therapy, using bandages or stockings, is the primary treatment for venous leg ulcers. Wound cleansing can be used to remove surface contaminants, bacteria, dead tissue and excess wound fluid from the wound bed and surrounding skin, however, there is uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of cleansing and the best method or solution to use.
Objectives: To assess the effects of wound cleansing, wound cleansing solutions and wound cleansing techniques for treating venous leg ulcers.
Search methods: In September 2019 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 We also searched clinical trials registries for ongoing and unpublished studies, and scanned reference lists of relevant included studies as well as reviews, meta-analyses and health technology reports to identify additional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 with respect to language, date of publication or study setting.
Selection criteria: We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing wound cleansing with no wound cleansing, or RCTs comparing different wound cleansing solutions, or different wound cleansing techniques.
Data collection and analysis: We screened studies for their appropriateness for inclusion, assessed their risk of bias using the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool, and used GRADE methodology to determine the certainty of evidence. Two review authors undertook these tasks independently, using predetermined criteria. We contacted study authors for missing data where possible.
Main results: We included four studies with a total of 254 participants. All studies included comparisons between different types of cleansing solutions, and three of these reported our primary outcomes of complete wound healing or change in ulcer size over time, or both. Two studies reported the secondary outcome, pain. One study (27 participants), which compared polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) solution with saline solution for cleansing venous leg ulcers, did not report any of the review's primary or secondary outcomes. We did not identify any studies that compared cleansing with no cleansing, or that explored comparisons between different cleansing techniques. One study (61 participants) compared aqueous oxygen peroxide with sterile water. We are uncertain whether aqueous oxygen peroxide makes any difference to the number of wounds completely healed after 12 months of follow-up (risk ratio (RR) 1.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.10 to 3.20). Similarly, we are uncertain whether aqueous oxygen peroxide makes any difference to change in ulcer size after eight weeks of follow-up (mean difference (MD) -1.38 cm2, 95% CI -4.35 to 1.59 cm2). Finally, we are uncertain whether aqueous oxygen peroxide makes any difference to pain reduction, assessed after eight weeks of follow-up using a 0 to 100 pain rating, (MD 3.80, 95% CI -10.83 to 18.43). The evidence for these outcomes is of very low certainty (we downgraded for study limitations and imprecision; for the pain outcome we also downgraded for indirectness). Another study (40 participants) compared propyl betaine and polihexanide with a saline solution. The authors did not present the raw data in the study report so we were unable to conduct independent statistical analysis of the data. We are uncertain whether propyl betaine and polihexanide make any difference to the number of wounds completely healed, change in ulcer size over time, or wound pain reduction. The evidence is of very low certainty (we downgraded for study limitations and imprecision). The final study (126 participants) compared octenidine dihydrochloride/phenoxyethanol (OHP) with Ringer's solution. We are uncertain whether OHP makes any difference to the number of wounds healed (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.72) or to the change in ulcer size over time (we were unable to conduct independent statistical analysis of available data). The evidence is of very low certainty (we downgraded for study limitations and imprecision). None of the studies reported patient preference, ease of use of the method of cleansing, cost or health-related quality of life. In one study comparing propyl betaine and polihexanide with saline solution the authors do not report any adverse events occurring. We are uncertain whether OHP makes any difference to the number of adverse events compared with Ringer's solution (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.29 to 1.14). The evidence is of very low certainty (we downgraded for study limitations and imprecision).
Authors' conclusions: There is currently a lack of RCT evidence to guide decision making about the effectiveness of wound cleansing compared with no cleansing and the optimal approaches to cleansing of venous leg ulcers. From the four studies identified, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate whether the use of PHMB solution compared with saline solution; aqueous oxygen peroxide compared with sterile water; propyl betaine and polihexanide compared with a saline solution; or OHP compared with Ringer's solution makes any difference in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. Evidence from three of the studies is of very low certainty, due to study limitations and imprecision. One study did not present data for the primary or secondary outcomes. Further well-designed studies that address important clinical, quality of life and economic outcomes may be important, based on the clinical and patient priority of this uncertainty.
National Institute for Health Research(NIHR),via Cochrane Infrastructure funding to Cochrane Wounds
Health Research Board of Ireland
CommentsThis review is published as a Cochrane Review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews2021, Issue 3. Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to comments and criticisms, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews should be consulted for the most recent version of the Review. McLain NEM, Moore ZEH, Avsar P. Wound cleansing for treating venous leg ulcers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2021, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD011675. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011675.pub2.
Published CitationMcLain NEM, Moore ZEH, Avsar P. Wound cleansing for treating venous leg ulcers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2021, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD011675. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011675.pub2.
Publication Date10 March 2021
- School of Nursing and Midwifery
- Published Version (Version of Record)