Dressings and topical agents used in the healing of chronic wounds


Wound dressings are designed to keep the wound clean and free from contamination and also to promote wound healing, particularly in chronic wounds where there may be significant tissue loss. This review evaluated the evidence for effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of dressings and topical preparations in pressure sores, leg ulcers and surgical wounds healing by secondary intention.


There is little evidence to indicate which dressings or topical agents are the most effective in the treatment of chronic wounds. However, there is evidence that hydrocolloid dressings are better than wet-to-dry dressings for the treatment of pressure sores. In the treatment of venous ulcers, low adherent dressings are as effective as hydrocolloid dressings beneath compression bandaging.

Conducted by: M Bradley1, N Cullum2, EA Nelson2, M Petticrew1, T Sheldon3, D Torgerson4

1. NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination; 2. Centre for Evidence Based Nursing, University of York; 3. York Health Policy Group, University of York; 4. Centre for Health Economics, University of York

Further details

Project page on HTA Programme website


Bradley M, Cullum N, Nelson EA, Petticrew M, Sheldon T, Torgerson D. Systematic reviews of wound care management: (2) Dressings and topical agents used in the healing of chronic wounds. Health Technol Assess. 1999;3(17) Pt.2:1-135


Commissioned by the HTA Programme