Pressure ulcers, localised injuries to the skin or underlying tissue, or both, occur when people cannot reposition themselves to relieve pressure on bony prominences. These wounds are difficult to heal, painful, expensive to manage and have a negative impact on quality of life. Prevention strategies include nutritional support and pressure redistribution. Dressing and topical agents aimed at prevention are also widely used, however, it remains unclear which, if any, are most effective. This is the first update of this review, which was originally published in 2013.
To evaluate the effects of dressings and topical agents on pressure ulcer prevention, in people of any age, without existing pressure ulcers, but considered to be at risk of developing one, in any healthcare setting.
In March 2017 we searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations), Embase, and EBSCO CINAHL Plus. We searched clinical trials registries for ongoing trials, and bibliographies of relevant publications to identify further eligible trials. There was no restriction on language, date of trial or setting. In May 2018 we updated this search; as a result several trials are awaiting classification.
We included randomised controlled trials that enrolled people at risk of pressure ulcers.
Two review authors independently selected trials, assessed risk of bias and extracted data.
The original search identified nine trials; the updated searches identified a further nine trials meeting our inclusion criteria. Of the 18 trials (3629 participants), nine involved dressings; eight involved topical agents; and one included dressings and topical agents. All trials reported the primary outcome of pressure ulcer incidence.Topical agentsThere were five trials comparing fatty acid interventions to different treatments. Two trials compared fatty acid to olive oil. Pooled evidence shows that there is no clear difference in pressure ulcer incidence between groups, fatty acid versus olive oil (2 trials, n=1060; RR 1.28, 95% CI 0.76 to 2.17; low-certainty evidence, downgraded for very serious imprecision; or fatty acid versus standard care (2 trials, n=187; RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.41 to 1.18; low-certainty evidence, downgraded for serious risk of bias and serious imprecision). Trials reported that pressure ulcer incidence was lower with fatty acid-containing-treatment compared with a control compound of trisostearin and perfume (1 trial, n=331; RR 0.42, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.80; low-certainty evidence, downgraded for serious risk of bias and serious imprecision). Pooled evidence shows that there is no clear difference in incidence of adverse events between fatty acids and olive oil (1 trial, n=831; RR 2.22 95% CI 0.20 to 24.37; low-certainty evidence, downgraded for very serious imprecision).Four trials compared further different topical agents with placebo. Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) cream may increase the risk of pressure ulcer incidence compared with placebo (1 trial, n=61; RR 1.99, 95% CI 1.10 to 3.57; low-certainty evidence; downgraded for serious risk of bias and serious imprecision). The other three trials reported no clear difference in pressure ulcer incidence between active topical agents and control/placebo; active lotion (1 trial, n=167; RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.19), Conotrane (1 trial, n=258; RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.07), Prevasore (1 trial, n=120; RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.04 to 3.11) (very low-certainty evidence, downgraded for very serious risk of bias and very serious imprecision). There was limited evidence from one trial to determine whether the application of a topical agent may delay or prevent the development of a pressure ulcer (DermalexTM 9.8 days vs placebo 8.7 days). Further, two out of 76 reactions occurred in the DermalexTM group compared with none out of 91 in the placebo group (RR 6.14, 95% CI 0.29 to 129.89; very low-certainty evidence; downgraded for very serious risk of bias and very serious imprecision).DressingsSix trials (n = 1247) compared a silicone dressing with no dressing. Silicone dressings may reduce pressure ulcer incidence (any stage) (RR 0.25, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.41; low-certainty evidence; downgraded for very serious risk of bias). In the one trial (n=77) we rated as being at low risk of bias, there was no clear difference in pressure ulcer incidence between silicone dressing and placebo-treated groups (RR 1.95, 95% CI 0.18 to 20.61; low-certainty evidence, downgraded for very serious imprecision).One trial (n=74) reported no clear difference in pressure ulcer incidence when a thin polyurethane dressing was compared with no dressing (RR 1.31, 95% CI 0.83 to 2.07). In the same trial pressure ulcer incidence was reported to be higher in an adhesive foam dressing compared with no dressing (RR 1.65, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.48). We rated evidence from this trial as very low certainty (downgraded for very serious risk of bias and serious imprecision).Four trials compared other dressings with different controls. Trials reported that there was no clear difference in pressure ulcer incidence between the following comparisons: polyurethane film and hydrocolloid dressing (n=160, RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.24 to 1.41); Kang' huier versus routine care n=100; RR 0.42, 95% CI 0.08 to 2.05); 'pressure ulcer preventive dressing' (PPD) versus no dressing (n=74; RR 0.18, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.76) We rated the evidence as very low certainty (downgraded for very serious risk of bias and serious or very serious imprecision).