Objective: In search of an optimal compression therapy for venous leg ulcers, a systematic review and meta-analysis was performed of randomized controlled trials (RCT) comparing compression systems based on stockings (MCS) with divers bandages.
Methods: RCT were retrieved from six sources and reviewed independently. The primary endpoint, completion of healing within a defined time frame, and the secondary endpoints, time to healing, and pain were entered into a meta-analysis using the tools of the Cochrane Collaboration. Additional subjective endpoints were summarized.
Results: Eight RCT (published 1985-2008) fulfilled the predefined criteria. Data presentation was adequate and showed moderate heterogeneity. The studies included 692 patients (21-178/study, mean age 61 years, 56% women). Analyzed were 688 ulcerated legs, present for 1 week to 9 years, sizing 1 to 210 cm(2). The observation period ranged from 12 to 78 weeks. Patient and ulcer characteristics were evenly distributed in three studies, favored the stocking groups in four, and the bandage group in one. Data on the pressure exerted by stockings and bandages were reported in seven and two studies, amounting to 31-56 and 27-49 mm Hg, respectively. The proportion of ulcers healed was greater with stockings than with bandages (62.7% vs 46.6%; P < .00001). The average time to healing (seven studies, 535 patients) was 3 weeks shorter with stockings (P = .0002). In no study performed bandages better than MCS. Pain was assessed in three studies (219 patients) revealing an important advantage of stockings (P < .0001). Other subjective parameters and issues of nursing revealed an advantage of MCS as well.
Conclusions: Leg compression with stockings is clearly better than compression with bandages, has a positive impact on pain, and is easier to use.