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New study compares leg ulcer treatments

Posted on 10 December 2013

A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of York, has found that compression stockings perform just as well as traditional bandages for the treatment of venous leg ulcers.

The trial was co-ordinated by the York Trials Unit in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York and was funded by the National Institute for Health Research as part of its Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR HTA).

Though venous leg ulcers take a similar time to heal using both treatments, people reported less ulcer recurrence after using the stockings and required fewer nurse visits making the stockings better value for money for the NHS.

But the study, published in The Lancet, also found that the stockings were not popular with everyone, with more people changing from this to another treatment than in the trial group being treated with bandages. 

Venous leg ulcers are common chronic wounds that are painful, recur and reduce quality of life. They are a consequence of damage or blockage to the veins of the leg which can result in skin breakdown and impaired healing.

Multi-layer compression bandages, which apply pressure to the leg, have until now been the main treatment for venous leg ulcers and are used by thousands of people. But the current method of treating these wounds costs the NHS millions of pounds per year.

Trial coordinator, Dr Rebecca Ashby, said "These results suggest compression hosiery may be an alternative treatment to bandaging for healing venous leg ulcers - a finding which is likely to be welcomed by patients who find bandages difficult and uncomfortable to wear." 

The study, known as Venous leg Ulcer Study IV (VenUS IV), saw 454 people trial the two methods and will now help inform nursing practice.

Nikki Stubbs, Clinical Lead at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The findings support the use of compression stockings for some people with venous leg ulcers. Where appropriate, the day to day application of stockings can be undertaken by patients, carers and a range of health professionals. From a patient perspective this may promote independence as well as enabling the NHS to maximise the use of its resources to best effect.”

Notes to editors:

  • The research team has produced three previous large venous ulcer studies all funded by the NIHR HTA programme. They are part of the Editorial Base of the Cochrane Wounds Group which conducts and publishes high quality systematic reviews of the evidence for wound treatments.
  • The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme funds research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 600 issues published to date. The journal’s 2011 Impact Factor (4.255) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download, free of charge, from the website. The HTA Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern
  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website ( article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.
  • For more information on the York Trials Unit, please visit

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David Garner
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