The NHS could be millions of pounds better off each year after a study found that treating leg ulcers with low-cost dressings works just as well as the widely used expensive alternatives.
A total of 213 leg ulcer patients who received either standard low-adhesive dressings or "antimicrobial silver-donating" dressings took part in the research, with the two groups showing no significant differences in healing rates and quality of life.
But the average cost of treating a patient with silver dressings was 30% higher than the alternative, the study published in the October issue of British Journal of Surgery found.
Study leader Jonathan Michaels, Professor of Vascular Surgery at Sheffield University and Honorary Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, 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."
Older people quite commonly suffer from venous leg ulcers 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.
"Yes - this is what we aim for from the beginning if it looks like it will be a long haul. For smaller ones, we also find that even class 2 stockings can make a big difference and are well tolerated unlike the bandaging" - Helen, Leeds
"Surely the nurses applying the dressings selected silver for a reason. Has anyone thought about moving to use of compression hosiery sooner to avoid 4 layer bandage application time and perhaps increase patient freedom and choices?" - Wendy, Lincolnshire