Supplements heal pressure ulcers faster

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: National health service, Nutrition

Bed sores, which afflict up to one-tenth of hospital patients, heal
more quickly when key supplements are added to a standard hospital
diet, reports new research from Australia.

The treatment of pressure ulcers, caused by pressure, friction and moisture, is estimated to cost as much as £3m per year in a typical 600-bed general hospital, and an annual £1.4bn to £2.1bn across the UK - equivalent to 4 per cent of total National Health Service (NHS) spending.

The new study divided 16 inpatients aged 37 to 92, into three groups, for a three-week period. One group ate a standard hospital diet, the second was additionally given a high-protein/energy supplement, and the third was further supplemented with arginine (9g), vitamin C (500 mg), and zinc (30 mg).

Lead author Katherine Desneves wrote: "Only patients receiving additional arginine, vitamin C and zinc demonstrated a clinically significant improvement in pressure ulcer healing."

However, this improvement challenges current guidelines on bedsore treatment.

Previous research on the impact of supplements on pressure ulcer has been unconvincing, prompting a 2005 report by the Royal College of Nursing and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to conclude: "There is no evidence to support the routine administration of nutritional support/ supplementation… to promote the healing of pressure ulcers."

A spokesman for the NICE told "NICE would not be able to comment on the results [of the Australian research], except to say that the current NICE guideline on pressure ulcer management takes into account all the available published evidence as at August 2004. This guidance, like all NICE guidance, will be reviewed - a process that normally begins four years after the date of issue."

"Reviewing may begin before this if significant evidence that affects the guideline recommendations is identified."

Desneves, meantime, appeared to acknowledge the latest research as only a first indicator. "The results need to be confirmed in a larger study."

The Australian study was published in the December issue of Clinical Nutrition​ (Vol 24. Iss. 6 pp979-987).

Related topics: Research, Suppliers, Supplements

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