Electrophysical therapy for managing diabetic foot ulcers: A systematic review

Rachel L.C. Kwan, Lai Ying Gladys Cheing, Sinfia K.S. Vong, Sing K. Lo

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


To systematically assess published reports on the efficacy of electrophysical therapy in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, including electrical stimulation, low-level laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound and electromagnetic therapy. Databases searched included MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) from 1966 to 2011. Studies reviewed included only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on treatment with electrophysical modalities compared with sham, conventional treatment or other electrophysical modalities. Information extracted were objective measures of healing and data useful for the calculation of effect size. Eight RCTs were eventually included in the critical appraisal, with a combined total of 325 participants. Five studies were conducted on electrical stimulation, two on phototherapy and one on ultrasound. All studies reported that the experimental group was significantly more favourable than the control or sham group. The pooled estimate of the number of healed ulcers of the three studies on electrical stimulation compared to the control or sham electrical stimulation showed statistical significance [mean difference of 2·8 (95% CI = 1·5-5·5, P = 0·002] in favour of electrical stimulation. The results indicated potential benefit of using electrophysical therapy for managing diabetic foot ulcers. However, due to the small number of trials ever conducted, the possibility of any harmful effects cannot be ruled out, and high-quality trials with larger sample sizes are warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-131
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Wound Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013


  • Critical appraisal
  • Diabetic foot ulcer
  • Electrophysical therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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