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Honey dressings "do not significantly improve healing"

Treating leg ulcers with honey-impregnated dressings does not seem to speed up the healing process in comparison with usual care, a study shows.

Venous leg ulcers have been treated with compression bandages for years but recently there has been renewed interest in honey as a potential healing agent.

However a trial run of 368 patients  found that those treated with honey dressings experienced significantly more adverse events than those treated with conventional dressings.

The rate of healing in both conventional and honey dressing groups was also similar.

Lead author Andrew Jull said: "In our trial the honey dressing did not significantly improve healing, time to healing, change in ulcer area, incidence of infection or quality of life.

"The current focus of venous ulcer management should remain on compression and other treatments that have demonstrated that they improve compression's ability to work or prevent ulcer recurrence."

Tissue viability nurse Una Adderley told "Although honey is known to have an antimicrobial effect, the results of this well-designed trial from this respected New Zealand Research team suggest that there are no clinical benefits and increased clinical risks and costs associated with the topical use of honey.

"Patients often perceive 'alternative' or 'natural' products as superior but forget that all treatments should be judged on effectiveness, safety and cost.

"Unfortunately, just because a product is natural does not mean it is less likely to have less unwanted side effects. This trial confirms compression as the current mainstay treatment for venous leg ulceration."

British Journal of Surgery

Related story: Delivering leg ulcer care in the community

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Honey dressings can work in my experience (eg, wound desloughed where conventional dressing treatments or treatments failed). It's basic science - bacteria do not like the high sugar content - they cannot thrive." - Chris Tyreman, North Wales

"The Jull et al study (2008) in the BJS has a methodology with many variables, comparing a honey dressing to all other possible dressings. Overall, the results are inconclusive with neither group showing a significant advantage" - Gill Wicks, Tissue Viability Consultant Nurse, Wiltshire PCT

"Statements that have been made about the results of the
HALT trial on honey carried out on honey dressings on venous leg ulcers (e.g. "Treating venous leg ulcers with honey dressings unlikely to help healing") give the impression that the results were negative. The reality is that the results were inconclusive, not negative. Honey gave better results than the standard treatment" - Name and address supplied