Delivery of Compression Therapy for Venous Leg Ulcers

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Abstract

IMPORTANCE

Despite the documented effect of compression therapy in clinical studies and its widespread prescription, treatment of venous leg ulcers is often prolonged and recurrence rates high. Data on provided compression therapy are limited.

OBJECTIVE

To assess whether home care nurses achieve adequate subbandage pressure when treating patients with venous leg ulcers and the factors that predict the ability to achieve optimal pressure.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS

We performed a cross-sectional study from March 1, 2011, through March 31, 2012, in home care centers in 2 Danish municipalities. Sixty-eight home care nurses who managed wounds in their everyday practice were included.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

Participant-masked measurements of subbandage pressure achieved with an elastic, long-stretch, single-component bandage; an inelastic, short-stretch, single-component bandage; and a multilayer, 2-component bandage, as well as, association between achievement of optimal pressure and years in the profession, attendance at wound care educational programs, previous work experience, and confidence in bandaging ability.

RESULTS

A substantial variation in the exerted pressure was found: subbandage pressures ranged from 11 mm Hg exerted by an inelastic bandage to 80 mm Hg exerted by a 2-component bandage. The optimal subbandage pressure range, defined as 30 to 50 mm Hg, was achieved by 39 of 62 nurses (63%) applying the 2-component bandage, 28 of 68 nurses (41%) applying the elastic bandage, and 27 of 68 nurses (40%) applying the inelastic bandage. More than half the nurses applying the inelastic (38 [56%]) and elastic (36 [53%]) bandages obtained pressures less than 30 mm Hg. At best, only 17 of 62 nurses (27%) using the 2-component bandage achieved subbandage pressure within the range they aimed for. In this study, none of the investigated factors was associated with the ability to apply a bandage with optimal pressure.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE

This study demonstrates the difficulty of achieving the desired subbandage pressure and indicates that a substantial proportion of patients with venous leg ulcers do not receive adequate compression therapy. Training programs that focus on practical bandaging skills should be implemented to improve management of venous leg ulcers.

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