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venous leg ulcer, topical zinc, zinc oxide, wound care



  1. O'Connor, Siobhan BSc (Business Information Systems), BSc (Nursing), RGN
  2. Murphy, Siobhan BSc(Hons), MSc, RGN, RNT


PURPOSE: To enhance the learner's competence with knowledge of research data on topical zinc for treatment of chronic leg ulcers.


TARGET AUDIENCE: This continuing education activity is intended for physicians and nurses with an interest in skin and wound care.


OBJECTIVES: After participating in this educational activity, the participant should be better able to:


1. Analyze the findings of the topical zinc dressing literature search to assess its role in healing venous leg ulcers (VLUs).


2. Apply results of study findings in case scenarios for VLU treatment regimens.


3. Recognize the limitations of the research studies in the literature review on topical zinc dressings.



ABSTRACT: Venous leg ulcers (VLUs) are chronic leg wounds that can have a debilitating effect on the physical and psychological health of patients. Older patients, who are a vulnerable group, suffer from VLUs more frequently, and the prevalence of these ulcers increases as the population ages. Venous leg ulcers also pose a serious cost to the healthcare industry. Zinc, in the form of topical creams and lotions, has been used in wound care for more than 3,000 years and is now contained in a variety of wound care products that are used in the treatment of chronic VLUs.


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this review was to examine the current empirical evidence to assess if topical zinc-based wound products are effective in promoting the healing of VLUs.


METHODS: Following a systematic search and review of the literature, based on selected keywords, 11 studies were identified as being relevant, and data were extracted using content analysis.


RESULTS: The results show that there is currently very poor-quality evidence to suggest that topical zinc-based wound products are effective in healing VLUs, either in conjunction with compression therapy, as compression bandages themselves, or as a topical skin protectant. Some of the studies were sponsored by industry, which challenges the validity and reliability of their results.


CONCLUSIONS: It is apparent that not only was much of the literature conducted on a small scale, it is also outdated and methodologically inconsistent. There is scant high-quality evidence to suggest that topical zinc-based wound products are effective in promoting the healing of VLUs. New studies are urgently needed that are larger, scientifically rigorous, and without bias from industry. This will enable clinicians to implement evidenced-based practice and choose the most appropriate wound management product to improve patient care and reduce the costs of healthcare.