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Electrical Stimulation for Pressure Injuries: A Health Technology Assessment.

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Health Quality Ontario.



Pressure injuries (bedsores) are common and reduce quality of life. They are also costly and difficult to treat. This health technology assessment evaluates the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, budget impact, and lived experience of adding electrical stimulation to standard wound care for pressure injuries.


We conducted a systematic search for studies published to December 7, 2016, limited to randomized and non-randomized controlled trials examining the effectiveness of electrical stimulation plus standard wound care versus standard wound care alone for patients with pressure injuries. We assessed the quality of evidence through Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). In addition, we conducted an economic literature review and a budget impact analysis to assess the cost-effectiveness and affordability of electrical stimulation for treatment of pressure ulcers in Ontario. Given uncertainties in clinical evidence and resource use, we did not conduct a primary economic evaluation. Finally, we conducted qualitative interviews with patients and caregivers about their experiences with pressure injuries, currently available treatments, and (if applicable) electrical stimulation.


Nine randomized controlled trials and two non-randomized controlled trials were found from the systematic search. There was no significant difference in complete pressure injury healing between adjunct electrical stimulation and standard wound care. There was a significant difference in wound surface area reduction favouring electrical stimulation compared with standard wound care.The only study on cost-effectiveness of electrical stimulation was partially applicable to the patient population of interest. Therefore, the cost-effectiveness of electrical stimulation cannot be determined. We estimate that the cost of publicly funding electrical stimulation for pressure injuries would be $0.77 to $3.85 million yearly for the next 5 years.Patients and caregivers reported that pressure injuries were burdensome and reduced their quality of life. Patients and caregivers also noted that electrical stimulation seemed to reduce the time it took the wounds to heal.


While electrical stimulation is safe to use (GRADE quality of evidence: high) there is uncertainty about whether it improves wound healing (GRADE quality of evidence: low). In Ontario, publicly funding electrical stimulation for pressure injuries could result in extra costs of $0.77 to $3.85 million yearly for the next 5 years.

Resource: Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2017 Nov 8;17(14):1-106.