The NHS could save millions of pounds a year after new research indicated that low-cost dressings for leg ulcers work just as well as more popular and expensive alternatives.
A study led by Professor Jonathan Michaels, from the University of Sheffield, investigated 213 cases where either antimicrobial silver-donating dressings or standard low-adhesive dressings were used to treat leg ulcer victims.
No significant differences were found in healing rates or quality of life between the two treatments, while the silver dressings cost 30% more to employ, the study found.
Explaining the benefits of the study, which is published in the October issue of British Journal of Surgery, Prof Michaels said: “Latest figures from the National Prescribing Centre suggest that wound dressings cost the NHS £100m in 2006-7, excluding staff time, and that silver dressings accounted for a quarter of this cost.
“However, until now, no studies have been published examining the cost-effectiveness of using antimicrobial silver-donating dressings beneath compression therapy to treat venous leg ulcers.”
Venous leg ulcers are relatively common in older people and, as the population ages, the costs of caring for them increases. Multi-layer compression bandaging is now the standard treatment for venous leg ulcers, with dressings placed over the actual wound to promote healing.