Debridement of diabetic foot ulcers

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;2010(1):CD003556. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003556.pub2.


Background: Foot ulceration is thought to affect 15% of people with diabetes at some time in their lives. Debridement is widely regarded as an effective intervention to speed up ulcer healing. The most effective method is unclear.

Objectives: To assess the effects of debridement interventions on the healing of diabetic foot ulcers.

Search strategy: For this third update we searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (June 2009); The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) - The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 2; Ovid MEDLINE - 1950 to June Week 3 2009; Ovid EMBASE - 1980 to 2009 Week 25 and Ovid CINAHL - 1982 to June Week 3 2009.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating any method of debriding diabetic foot ulcers and measuring complete healing or rate of healing. There was no restriction on articles/trials based on language or publication status.

Data collection and analysis: Data extraction and assessment of study quality were undertaken by one review author and checked by an Editor of the Wounds Group.

Main results: Six RCTs of debridement were identified: four assessed hydrogels, with an additional study evaluating larval therapy against hydrogel and one evaluated surgical debridement. Pooling the three RCTs which compared hydrogel with gauze or standard care suggested that hydrogels are significantly more effective in healing diabetic foot ulcers (Relative Risk 1.84, 95% Confidence Interval (CI)1.3 to 2.61). Surgical debridement showed no significant benefit over standard treatment. One small trial suggested that larvae resulted in a more than 50% reduction in wound area compared with hydrogel. Other debridement methods such as enzyme preparations or polysaccharide beads have not been evaluated in diabetic foot ulcers.

Authors' conclusions: There is evidence to suggest that hydrogel increases the healing rate of diabetic foot ulcers compared with gauze dressings or standard care and larval therapy resulted in significantly greater reduction in wound area than hydrogel. More research is needed to evaluate the effects of a range of widely used debridement methods and of debridement per se.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bandages
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Debridement / methods*
  • Diabetic Foot / surgery
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels / therapeutic use*
  • Larva
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Wound Healing


  • Hydrogels