Effects and associations of nutrition in patients with venous leg ulcers: A systematic review

J Adv Nurs. 2018 Apr;74(4):774-787. doi: 10.1111/jan.13474. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


Aims: To identify the associations and effects of nutritional characteristics and interventions on ulcer outcomes in adult patients with venous leg ulcers.

Background: Venous leg ulcers are the most prevalent type of lower limb ulcer; however, little evidence exists regarding the relationship between nutritional status and ulcer healing.

Design: A systematic search of English language articles was conducted using the Cochrane Collaboration Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

Data sources: A search of databases Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, CINAHL and Scopus was performed for studies published between January 2004 - May 2017.

Review methods: Quality of the included studies was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration's Risk of Bias Assessment tool and the relevant Joanna Briggs Institute quality appraisal checklists.

Results: Twenty studies met the inclusion criteria. All participants had Clinical Aetiology Anatomy Pathophysiology classification C5 (healed) or C6 (active) ulcers. Studies were conducted in a range of clinical settings with relatively small sample sizes. The majority of patients were overweight or obese. Increased body mass index was associated with delayed wound healing. Vitamin D, folic acid and flavonoids were associated with some beneficial effects on ulcer healing. Dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and zinc were low for some patients.

Conclusion: Current evidence suggests that venous leg ulcer patients are more likely to be overweight or obese. However, evidence for weight management improving wound healing is lacking. Micronutrients, including vitamin D and folic acid, may improve wound healing in at-risk patients.

Keywords: body mass index; healing; literature review; malnutrition; nursing; nutrition; obesity; supplement; systematic review; venous leg ulcer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg Ulcer / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / physiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Varicose Ulcer / physiopathology*
  • Wound Healing / physiology*