Patient Care

Enriched Nutritional Formulas Help Heal Pressure Ulcers


Clinical question: Does a high-calorie, high-protein formula enriched with supplements of arginine, zinc, and antioxidants improve pressure ulcer healing?

Background: Malnutrition is thought to be a major factor in the development and poor healing of pressure ulcers. Trials evaluating whether or not the addition of antioxidants, arginine, and zinc to nutritional formulas improves pressure ulcer healing have been small and inconsistent.

Study design: Multicenter, randomized, controlled, blinded trial.

Setting: Long-term care facilities and patients receiving home care services.

Synopsis: Two hundred patients with stage II, III, or IV pressure ulcers receiving standardized wound care were randomly assigned to a control formula or an experimental formula enriched with arginine, zinc, and antioxidants. At eight weeks, the experimental formula group had an 18.7% (CI, 5.7% to 31.8%, P=0.017) mean reduction in pressure ulcer size compared with the control formula group, although both groups showed efficacy in wound healing.

Nutrition is an important part of wound healing and should be incorporated into the plan of care for the hospitalized patient with pressure ulcers. Hospitalists should be mindful that this study was conducted in non-acute settings, with a chronically ill patient population; more research needs to be done to investigate the effect of these specific immune-modulating nutritional supplements in acutely ill hospitalized patients, given the inconclusive safety profile of certain nutrients such as arginine in severe sepsis.

Bottom line: Enhanced nutritional support with an oral nutritional formula enriched with arginine, zinc, and antioxidants improves pressure ulcer healing in malnourished patients already receiving standard wound care.

Citation: Cereda E, Klersy C, Serioli M, Crespi A, D’Andrea F, OligoElement Sore Trial Study Group. A nutritional formula enriched with arginine, zinc, and antioxidants for the healing of pressure ulcers: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(3):167-174.

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