Comparison of low-strength compression stockings with bandages for the treatment of recalcitrant venous ulcers

Eugenio Brizzio, Felix Amsler, Bertrand Lun, Werner Bl├Ąttler
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2010, 51 (2): 410-6

OBJECTIVE: To compare the proportion and rate of healing, pain, and quality of life of low-strength medical compression stockings (MCS) with traditional bandages applied for the treatment of recalcitrant venous leg ulcers.

METHODS: A single-center, randomized, open-label study was performed with consecutive patients. Sigvaris prototype MCS providing 15 mm Hg-25 mm Hg at the ankle were compared with multi-layer short-stretch bandages. In both groups, pads were placed above incompetent perforating veins in the ulcer area. The initial static pressure between the dressing-covered ulcer and the pad was 29 mm Hg and 49 mm Hg with MCS and bandages, respectively. Dynamic pressure measurements showed no difference. Compression was maintained day and night and changed every week. The primary endpoint was healing within 90 days. Secondary endpoints were healing within 180 days, time to healing, pain (weekly Likert scales), and monthly quality of life (ChronIc Venous Insufficiency Quality of Life [CIVIQ] questionnaire).

RESULTS: Of 74 patients screened, 60 fulfilled the selection criteria and 55 completed the study; 28 in the MCS and 27 in the bandage group. Ulcers were recurrent (48%), long lasting (mean, 27 months), and large (mean, 13 cm2). All but one patient had deep venous reflux and/or incompetent perforating veins in addition to trunk varices. Characteristics of patients and ulcers were evenly distributed (exception: more edema in the MCS group; P = .019). Healing within 90 days was observed in 36% with MCS and in 48% with bandages (P = .350). Healing within 180 days was documented in 50% with MCS and in 67% with bandages (P = .210). Time to healing was identical. Pain scored 44 and 46 initially (on a scale in which 100 referred to maximum and 0 to no pain) and decreased within the first week to 20 and 28 in the MCS and bandage groups, respectively (P < .001 vs .010). Quality of life showed no difference between the treatment groups. In both groups, pain at 90 days had decreased by half, independent of completion of healing. Physical, social, and psychic impairment improved significantly in patients with healed ulcers only.

CONCLUSION: Our study illustrates the difficulty of bringing large and long-standing venous ulcers to heal. The effect of compression with MCS was not different from that of compression with bandages. Both treatments alleviated pain promptly. Quality of life was improved only in patients whose ulcers had healed.

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