Enhanced healing of diabetic foot ulcers using local heat and electrical stimulation for 30 min three times per week

J Diabetes. 2010 Mar;2(1):41-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-0407.2009.00058.x. Epub 2009 Oct 26.


Background: Electrical stimulation (ES) with heating is effective in healing chronic wounds. However, it this effect due to ES alone or both heating and ES? The aim of the present study was to deduce the individual roles of heat and ES in the healing of chronic wounds.

Methods: The study was performed on 20 patients (mean age 48.4 ± 14.6 years) with non-healing diabetic foot ulcers (mean duration 38.9 ± 23.7 months) who received local dry heat (37°C; n = 10) or local dry heat + ES (n = 10) three times a week for 4 weeks. Patients were given ES using biphasic sine wave stimulation (30 Hz, pulse width 250 μs, current approximately 20 mA).

Results: Skin blood flow in and around the wound was measured with a laser Doppler flow imager. In the ES + heat group, the average wound area and volume decreased significantly by 68.4 ± 28.6% and 69.3 ± 27.1%, respectively (both P < 0.05), over the 1-month period. During the average session, blood flow increased to 102.3 ± 25.3% with local heat and to 152.3 ± 23.4% with ES + heat. In the group receiving treatment with local heat only, wounds that had not healed for at least 2 months showed 30.1 ± 22.6% healing (i.e. a decrease in wound area) after 1 month. Although this level of healing was significant, it was less than that observed in the ES + heat group (P<0.05).

Conclusions: Local dry heat and ES work well together to heal chronic diabetic foot wounds; however, local heat would appear to be a relevant part of this therapy because ES alone has produced little healing in previous studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Diabetic Foot / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Wound Healing / physiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy