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Open Access Study protocol

Effectiveness of acupuncture, special dressings and simple, low-adherence dressings for healing venous leg ulcers in primary healthcare: study protocol for a cluster-randomized open-labeled trial

Jorge Vas1*, Manuela Modesto1, Camila Mendez2, Emilio Perea-Milla3, Inmaculada Aguilar1, Jesus Manuel Carrasco-Lozano4, Vicente Faus4 and Francisco Martos5

Author Affiliations

1 Pain Treatment Unit, Primary Healthcare Centre, Dos Hermanas, Spain

2 Andalusian Public Health System, Sevilla, Spain

3 Support Research Unit (Network and Cooperative Research Centres of Epidemiology. CIBERESP), Costa del Sol Hospital, Marbella, Spain

4 Costa del Sol Hospital, Marbella, Spain

5 Department of Pharmacology, Malaga University, Spain

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-8-29

Published: 11 June 2008

Abstract

Background

Venous leg ulcers constitute a chronic recurring complaint that affects 1.0–1.3% of the adult population at some time in life, and which corresponds to approximately 75% of all chronic ulcers of the leg. Multilayer compression bandaging is, at present, the only treatment that has been proved to be effective in treating this type of ulcer. There is no consensus, however, about the dressings that may be applied, beneath the compression, to promote the healing of this type of ulcer, as there does not seem to be any added benefit from using special dressings rather than simple, low-adherence ones. As well as analgesia, acupuncture provokes peripheral vasodilation, in skin and muscles – which has been demonstrated both experimentally and in clinical practice – probably due to the axon reflex, among other mechanisms. The aim of the present study is to measure the effectiveness and cost of compression treatment for venous leg ulcers combined with special dressings, in comparison with low-adherence ones and acupuncture.

Methods/design

Cluster-randomized open-labeled trial, at 15 primary healthcare clinics in the Sevilla-Sur Healthcare District, with a control group treated with compression bandaging and low-adherence dressings; the experiment will consist, on the one hand, of the compression treatment applied in combination with special dressings (Treatment 1), and on the other, the compression treatment applied in association with low-adherence dressings, together with acupuncture (Treatment 2).

Discussion

The results will be measured and recorded in terms of the median time elapsed until complete healing of the ulcer, and the rate of complete healing at 3 months after beginning the treatment. An economic analysis will also be made.

This study, carried out in the context of real clinical practice, will provide information for decision-taking concerning the effectiveness of special dressings. Moreover, for the first time a high-quality study will evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture in the process of healing venous leg ulcers.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN26438275.