The frequency of skin ulceration makes an important contributor to the morbidity burden in people with sickle cell disease. Many treatment options are available to the healthcare professional, although it is uncertain which treatments have been assessed for effectiveness in people with sickle cell disease. This is an update of a previously published Cochrane Review.
To assess the clinical effectiveness and harms of interventions for treating leg ulcers in people with sickle cell disease.
We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group’s Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register. We searched LILACS (1982 to January 2020), ISI Web of Knowledge (1985 to January 2020), and the Clinical Trials Search Portal of the World Health Organization (January 2020). We checked the reference lists of all the trials identified. We also contacted those groups or individuals who may have completed relevant randomised trials in this area. Date of the last search of the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group’s Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register: 13 January 2020; date of the last search of the Cochrane Wounds Group Trials Register: 17 February 2017.
Randomised controlled trials of interventions for treating leg ulcers in people with sickle cell disease compared to placebo or an alternative treatment.
Two authors independently selected studies for inclusion. All three authors independently assessed the risk of bias of the included studies and extracted data. We used GRADE to assess the quality of the evidence.
Six studies met the inclusion criteria (198 participants with 250 ulcers). Each trial investigated a different intervention and within this review we have grouped these as systemic pharmaceutical interventions (L-cartinine, arginine butyrate, isoxsuprine) and topical pharmaceutical interventions (Solcoseryl cream, arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptide dressing and topical antibiotics). No trials on non-pharmaceutical interventions were included in the review. All trials had an overall unclear or high risk of bias, and drug companies sponsored four of them. We were unable to pool findings due to the heterogeneity in outcome definitions, and inconsistency between the units of randomisation and analysis. Three interventions reported on the change in ulcer size (arginine butyrate, RGD peptide, L-cartinine). Of these, only arginine butyrate showed a reduction of ulcer size compared with a control group, mean reduction -5.10 cm² (95% CI -9.65 to -0.55), but we are uncertain whether this reduces ulcer size compared to standard care alone as the certainty of the evidence has been assessed as very low. Three trials reported on complete leg ulcer closure (isoxsuprine, arginine butyrate, RGD peptide matrix; very low quality of evidence). None reported a clinical benefit. No trial reported on: the time to complete ulcer healing; ulcer-free survival following treatment for sickle cell leg ulcers; quality of life measures; incidence of amputation or harms.
Given the very low quality of the evidence identified in this updated Cochrane Review we are uncertain whether any of the assessed pharmaceutical interventions reduce ulcer size or result in leg ulcer closure in treated participants compared to controls. However, this intervention was assessed as having a high risk of bias due to inadequacies in the single trial report. Other included studies were also assessed as having an unclear or high risk of bias. The harm profile of the all interventions remains inconclusive.

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