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Negative pressure wound therapy for treating pressure ulcers (Review)

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Dumville JC1, Webster J, Evans D, Land L.



Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, decubitus ulcers and pressure injuries, are localised areas of injury to the skin or the underlying tissue, or both. Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a treatment option for pressure ulcers; a clear, current overview of the evidence is required to facilitate decision-making regarding its use.


To assess the effects of negative pressure wound therapy for treating pressure ulcers in any care setting.


For this review, we searched the following databases in May 2015: the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register; The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; The Cochrane Library); Ovid MEDLINE; Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations); Ovid EMBASE; and EBSCO CINAHL. There were no restrictions based on language or date of publication.


Published or unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effects of NPWT with alternative treatments or different types of NPWT in the treatment of pressure ulcers (stage II or above).


Two review authors independently performed study selection, risk of bias assessment and data extraction.


The review contains four studies with a total of 149 participants. Two studies compared NPWT with dressings; one study compared NPWT with a series of gel treatments and one study compared NPWT with ‘moist wound healing’. One study had a 24-week follow-up period, and two had a six-week follow-up period, the follow-up time was unclear for one study. Three of the four included studies were deemed to be at a high risk of bias from one or more ‘Risk of bias’ domains and all evidence was deemed to be of very low quality. Only one study reported usable primary outcome data (complete wound healing), but this had only 12 participants and there were very few events (only one participant healed in the study). There was little other useful data available from the included studies on positive outcomes such as wound healing or negative outcomes such as adverse events.


There is currently no rigorous RCT evidence available regarding the effects of NPWT compared with alternatives for the treatment of pressure ulcers. High uncertainty remains about the potential benefits or harms, or both, of using this treatment for pressure ulcer management.

Resource: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 May 20;(5):CD011334.