Skin grafting for venous leg ulcers

J.E. Jones, E.A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Venous leg ulceration is a common, recurring, disabling condition affecting up to 1% of adults. Treatment is aimed at healing with simple dressings and compression bandages / stockings. Unfortunately in some cases this treatment is unsuccessful with ulcers remaining open for months or years. In order to stimulate healing, some clinicians use skin grafts. These skin grafts may be taken from the patients own uninjured skin (e.g. thigh), may be grown from the patient's skin cells into a dressing, (both known as autografts) or applied as a sheet of bioengineered skin grown from a donor cells (known as an allograft). Preserved skin from other animals, e.g. pigs, have also been used and these are known as xerografts. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of skin grafts in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Wounds Groups specialised register (date of search October 1999), and reference lists of relevant articles. We hand searched relevant journals and conference proceedings, and contacted experts in the field. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials evaluating skin grafts in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. There was no restriction on articles based on language or publication status. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data extraction and assessment of study quality was undertaken by two reviewers independently. Trials with similar patients, comparisons, and outcomes were pooled. MAIN RESULTS: Seven RCTs of skin grafts for venous leg ulcers were identified. In 6 trials patients also received compression bandaging. Two trials (98 patients) evaluated split thickness autografts, three trials (92 patients) evaluated cultured keratinocyte allografts, one compared tissue engineered skin (artificial skin) with a dressing (309 patients) and one compared it with a split thickness skin graft (7 patients, 13 ulcers). The trials comparing artificial skin with a dressing reported a significantly higher proportion of ulcers healing with artificial skin. There was insufficient evidence from the remaining trials to determine whether other types of skin grafting increased the healing of venous ulcers. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: There is limited evidence that artificial skin used in conjunction with compression bandaging, increases the chance of healing a venous ulcer compared to compression alone. Further research is needed to assess whether other forms of skin grafts increase ulcer healing.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD001737
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


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