Objective: To evaluate the role of compression in non-healing venous leg ulcers (VLUs) of > 3 months’ duration.

Method: Patients’ records from three independent data sets of non-healing VLUs of > 3 months’duration were re-analysed.Two data sets were separate audits of clinical practice and the third comprised patients’ records from a randomised controlled trial. Some patients in each data set were never treated with compression. The effect of compression on healing at 6 months was tested with logistic regression.

Results: In each data set, patients in the compression and no-compression groups were matched according to ulcer size and duration; there were no differences in comorbidities. Comparing the no-compression with the compression groups, the healing rate at 6 months was 68% vs 48% in study 1, 12% vs 6% in study 2, and 26% vs 11% in study 3. Use of compression was found to be an independent predictor of not healing with an odds ratio of 0.422, 0.456 and 0.408 in studies 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

Conclusion: The healing rate of non-healing VLUs of > 3 months’ duration in the no-compression groups was double that of VLUs in the compression groups. These findings have the potential for treatment modification if confirmed in a prospective trial.

Declaration of interest: There were no external sources of funding for this study. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript, which remains their sole responsibility.

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