Topical silver for treating infected wounds.

People with chronic wounds such as foot ulcers and leg ulcers and acute wounds such as surgical wounds often find their wound becomes infected. Healing the wound can be delayed by the amount of bacteria on the wound surface. Wound care involves frequent dressing changes. Silver is an antimicrobial and dressings which contain silver have been developed. The authors of this Cochrane review wanted to find evidence on whether silver based dressings reduced infection and encouraged wound healing.

Three studies looking at people with chronic wounds were included in the review and found that silver-containing foam dressings did not result in faster wound healing after up to four weeks of follow-up. One study did find that the overall size of the ulcer reduced more quickly when dressed with a silver-containing foam.

There is no enough evidence to recommend the use of silver-containing dressings or topical agents for treating infected or contaminated chronic wounds.

Authors' conclusions: 

Only three trials with a short follow-up duration were found. There is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of silver-containing dressings or topical agents for treatment of infected or contaminated chronic wounds.

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Background: 

Topical silver treatments and silver dressings are increasingly used for the local treatment of contaminated or infected wounds, however, there is a lack of clarity regarding the evidence for their effectiveness.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the effects on wound healing of topical silver and silver dressings in the treatment of contaminated and infected acute or chronic wounds.

Search strategy: 

We sought relevant trials from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register in March 2006 and in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and digital dissertations databases up to September 2006. In addition, we contacted companies, manufacturers and distributors for information to identify relevant trials.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the effectiveness of topical silver in the treatment of contaminated and infected acute or chronic wounds.

Data collection and analysis: 

Eligibility of trials, assessment of trial quality and data extraction were undertaken by two authors independently. Disagreements were referred to a third author.

Main results: 

Three RCTs were identified, comprising a total of 847 participants. One trial compared silver-containing foam (Contreet®) with hydrocellular foam (Allevyn®) in patients with leg ulcers. The second trial compared a silver-containing alginate (Silvercel®) with an alginate alone (Algosteril®). The third trial compared a silver-containing foam dressing (Contreet®)) with best local practice in patients with chronic wounds.

The data from these trials show that silver-containing foam dressings did not significantly increase complete ulcer healing as compared with standard foam dressings or best local practice after up to four weeks of follow-up, although a greater reduction of ulcer size was observed with the silver-containing foam. The use of antibiotics was assessed in two trials, but no significant differences were found. Data on pain, patient satisfaction, length of hospital stay, and costs were limited and showed no differences. Leakage occurred significantly less frequently in patients with leg ulcers and chronic wounds treated with a silver dressing than with a standard foam dressing or best local practice in one trial.

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