Plain language summary
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy for the healing and management of venous leg ulcers
What is the aim of this review?
The aim of this review was to find out whether extracorporeal shock wave therapy (pulses of energy similar to sound waves, transmitted via a pad to the skin) can help to heal venous leg ulcers. Researchers from Cochrane searched for relevant studies (randomised controlled trials) to answer this question but no relevant studies were found.
No evidence from randomised controlled trials was available to allow us to evaluate whether extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is effective for healing venous leg ulcers. Randomised controlled trials are medical studies where patients are chosen at random to receive different treatments. This type of trial provides the most reliable evidence and there is currently a lack of high-quality evidence in this area.
What was studied in the review?
Leg ulcers are chronic wounds of the lower leg that can take a long time to heal. Venous leg ulcers are caused by poor blood flow in the legs. Pooling of blood in the veins can damage the skin and surrounding tissues, causing an ulcer to form. Venous leg ulcers are associated with reduced quality of life, reduced mobility, pain, stress and loss of dignity. The standard treatment for venous leg ulcers is compression bandages or stockings.
ESWT was first used to break up kidney stones and gallstones but is now used to treat tendonitis and other joint and muscle conditions. ESWT is also thought to help wounds heal by stimulating circulation, promoting the growth of healthy blood vessels, and by reducing inflammation. This is a new therapy for treating venous leg ulcers.
What are the main results of the review?
We found no randomised controlled trials evaluating the use of ESWT for venous leg ulcers. This highlights a gap in medical evidence which may justify further research into this area.
How up to date is this review?
We searched for studies that had been published up to April 2018.