Leg ulcers are chronic wounds of the lower leg, caused by poor blood flow, that can take a long time to heal. The pooling of blood in the veins can damage the skin and surrounding tissues, causing an ulcer to form. Venous leg ulcers are associated with impaired quality of life, reduced mobility, pain, stress and loss of dignity. The standard treatment for venous leg ulcers is compression bandages or stockings. Shock wave therapy may aid the healing of these wounds through the promotion of angiogenesis (the formation and development of blood vessels) and reduction of inflammation, though this process is poorly understood at present.
To assess the effects of extracorporeal shock wave therapy on the healing and management of venous leg ulceration.
In April 2018 we searched the Cochrane Wounds Specialised Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Ovid MEDLINE (including In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations); Ovid Embase and EBSCO CINAHL Plus. We also searched clinical trials registries for ongoing and unpublished studies, and scanned reference lists of relevant included studies as well as reviews, meta-analyses and health technology reports to identify additional studies. We applied no restrictions with respect to language, date of publication or study setting.
We considered all published and unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the effectiveness of extracorporeal shock wave therapy in the healing and management of venous leg ulceration.
Two review authors independently performed study selection. We planned that two review authors would also assess the risk of bias of included studies, extract study data and rate the certainty of the evidence using GRADE.
We found no RCTs that met the inclusion criteria for this review.
We found no RCTs assessing the effectiveness of extracorporeal shock wave therapy in the healing and management of venous leg ulceration. The lack of high-quality evidence in this area highlights a gap in research and may serve to justify the need for further research and evidence to provide guidance concerning the use of this treatment option for this condition. Future trials should be of clear design and include concomitant use of the current best practice treatment, multilayer compression therapy. Recruitment should aspire to best represent patients seen in clinical practice and patient-related outcome measures should be included in study design.