OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether a disease-specific nutritional approach is more beneficial than a standard dietary approach to the healing of pressure ulcers (PUs) in institutionalized elderly patients.
DESIGN: Twelve-week follow-up randomized controlled trial (RCT).
SETTING: Four long-term care facilities in the province of Como, Italy.
PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-eight elderly subjects with Stage II, III, and IV PUs of recent onset (<1-month history).
INTERVENTION: All 28 patients received 30 kcal/kg per day nutritional support; of these, 15 received standard nutrition (hospital diet or standard enteral formula; 16% calories from protein), whereas 13 were administered a disease-specific nutrition treatment consisting of the standard diet plus a 400-mL oral supplement or specific enteral formula enriched with protein (20% of the total calories), arginine, zinc, and vitamin C (P<.001 for all nutrients vs control).
MEASUREMENTS: Ulcer healing was evaluated using the Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing (PUSH; 0=complete healing, 17=greatest severity) tool and area measurement (mm2 and %).
RESULTS: The sampled groups were well matched for age, sex, nutritional status, oral intake, type of feeding, and ulcer severity. After 12 weeks, both groups showed significant improvement (P<.001). The treatment produced a higher rate of healing, the PUSH score revealing a significant difference at Week 12 (−6.1±2.7 vs −3.3±2.4; P<.05) and the reduction in ulcer surface area significantly higher in the treated patients already by Week 8 (−1,140.9±669.2 mm2 vs −571.7±391.3 mm2; P<.05 and ∼57% vs ∼33%; P<.02).
CONCLUSION: The rate of PU healing appears to accelerate when a nutrition formula enriched with protein, arginine, zinc, and vitamin C is administered, making such a formula preferable to a standardized one, but the present data require further confirmation by high-quality RCTs conducted on a larger scale.