Pressure ulcer treatment strategies: A systematic comparative effectiveness review

M. E. Beth Smith, Annette Totten, David H. Hickam, Rongwei Fu, Ngoc Wasson, Basmah Rahman, Makalapua Motu'apuaka, Somnath Saha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Background: Pressure ulcers affect as many as 3 million Americans and are major sources of morbidity, mortality, and health care costs. Purpose: To summarize evidence comparing the effectiveness and safety of treatment strategies for adults with pressure ulcers. Data Sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and Health Technology Assessment Database for English- or foreign-language studies; reference lists; gray literature; and individual product packets from manufacturers (January 1985 to October 2012). Study Selection: Randomized trials and comparative observational studies of treatments for pressure ulcers in adults and noncomparative intervention series (n > 50) for surgical interventions and evaluation of harms. Data Extraction: Data were extracted and evaluated for accuracy of the extraction, quality of included studies, and strength of evidence. Data Synthesis: 174 studies met inclusion criteria and 92 evaluated complete wound healing. In comparison with standard care, placebo, or sham interventions, moderate-strength evidence showed that air-fluidized beds (5 studies [n = 908]; high consistency), protein-containing nutritional supplements (12 studies [n = 562]; high consistency), radiant heat dressings (4 studies [n = 160]; moderate consistency), and electrical stimulation (9 studies [n = 397]; moderate consistency) improved healing of pressure ulcers. Low-strength evidence showed that alternating-pressure surfaces, hydrocolloid dressings, platelet-derived growth factor, and light therapy improved healing of pressure ulcers. The evidence about harms was limited. Limitation: Applicability of results is limited by study quality, heterogeneity in methods and outcomes, and inadequate duration to assess complete wound healing. Conclusion: Moderate-strength evidence shows that healing of pressure ulcers in adults is improved with the use of air-fluidized beds, protein supplementation, radiant heat dressings, and electrical stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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