Skin grafting for venous leg ulcers

J.E. Jones, E.A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Venous leg ulceration is a common and disabling condition which often recurs. It affects up to one in 100 adults at some time. The usual treatments are simple dressings and compression bandages or stockings. Unfortunately, in some cases this treatment is unsuccessful, with ulcers remaining open for months or years. Sometimes skin grafts are used to stimulate healing. These skin grafts may be taken from the patient's own uninjured skin, may be grown from the patient's skin cells into a dressing (autografts), or applied as a sheet of bioengineered skin grown from donor cells (allograft). Preserved skin from other animals, such as pigs, has also been used; these grafts are known as xerografts.

To assess the effect of skin grafts for treating venous leg ulcers.

We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (June 2004) and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 2, 2004).

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of skin grafts in the treatment of venous leg ulcers.

Two reviewers independently undertook data extraction and assessment of study quality.

Nine trials of skin grafts for venous leg ulcers were identified, involving 579 participants. The trials were generally of poor methodological quality. In eight trials participants also received compression bandaging. Two trials (98 participants) evaluated split thickness autografts (one against a dressing and one against a xerograft), four trials (119 participants) evaluated cultured keratinocyte grafts (3 allografts and 1 autograft) , two compared tissue engineered skin (bilayer artificial skin) with a dressing (345 participants), and one compared it with a split thickness skin graft (7 participants, 13 ulcers). The trials comparing bilayer artificial skin with a dressing reported a significantly higher proportion of ulcers healing with artificial skin. There was not enough evidence from the other trials to determine whether other types of skin grafting increased the healing of venous ulcers.

There is evidence that a bilayer artificial skin, used in conjunction with compression bandaging, increases the chance of healing a venous ulcer compared with compression and a simple dressing. Further research is needed to assess whether other forms of skin grafts increase ulcer healing.

Update of
Skin grafting for venous leg ulcers. [Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000]
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD001737
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


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