Foot ulcers in people with diabetes mellitus are a common and serious global health issue. Dressings form a key part of ulcer treatment, with clinicians and patients having many different types to choose from. A clear and current overview of current evidence is required to facilitate decision-making regarding dressing use.
To summarize data from systematic reviews of randomised controlled trial evidence on the effectiveness of dressings for healing foot ulcers in people with diabetes mellitus (DM).
We searched the following databases for relevant systematic reviews and associated analyses: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; The Cochrane Library 2015, Issue 2); Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE; The Cochrane Library 2015, Issue 1); Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, 14 April 2015); Ovid EMBASE (1980 to 14 April 2015). We also handsearched the Cochrane Wounds Group list of reviews. Two review authors independently performed study selection, risk of bias assessment and data extraction. Complete wound healing was the primary outcome assessed; secondary outcomes included health-related quality of life, adverse events, resource use and dressing performance.
We found 13 eligible systematic reviews relevant to this overview that contained a total of 17 relevant RCTs. One review reported the results of a network meta-analysis and so presented information on indirect, as well as direct, treatment effects. Collectively the reviews reported findings for 11 different comparisons supported by direct data and 26 comparisons supported by indirect data only. Only four comparisons informed by direct data found evidence of a difference in wound healing between dressing types, but the evidence was assessed as being of low or very low quality (in one case data could not be located and checked). There was also no robust evidence of a difference between dressing types for any secondary outcomes assessed.
There is currently no robust evidence for differences between wound dressings for any outcome in foot ulcers in people with diabetes (treated in any setting). Practitioners may want to consider the unit cost of dressings, their management properties and patient preference when choosing dressings.