The mechanisms and evidence of efficacy of electrical stimulation for healing of pressure ulcer: a systematic review

Wound Repair Regen. Mar-Apr 2014;22(2):161-73. doi: 10.1111/wrr.12134. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


The objective of this article is to provide a systematic review of the efficacy of electrical stimulation in healing pressure ulcer and to review its mechanism of action. The Cochrane Library, PubMed, CINAHL, Medline, EMBASE, and NHS EED were searched for relevant interventional studies including randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies. A best-evidence synthesis was performed to summarize the results of the included studies. A total of seven RCTs and two observational studies met the inclusion criteria. Moderate level of evidence of efficacy with low risk of bias was shown in all seven RCTs. Although some studies have used continuous direct current, most other investigators opted to use high-voltage pulsed current to minimize the risk of skin burn and to achieve greater current penetration. Overall, the incidence of adverse effects was very low. Two studies that assessed the economic impacts of electrical stimulation revealed substantial health care cost savings. The mechanisms through which electrical stimulation exerts a positive effect on pressure ulcer healing are reasonably well established. Clinical trials have revealed a moderate level of evidence to support its use as an ancillary treatment modality for healing pressure ulcer. Recommendations regarding the optimal electrical stimulation parameters and dosage of use are provided. Further studies to investigate potential barriers that may impede widespread use in different clinical settings are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Electric Stimulation* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pressure Ulcer / physiopathology*
  • Pressure Ulcer / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing*