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Medicina (Kaunas) 2004; 40 (8): 731-739

Changes in patient’s quality of life comparing conservative and surgical treatment of venous leg ulcers

Vytautas Jankūnas, Rytis Rimdeika, Marius Jasėnas, Donatas Samsanavičius

Division of Plastic Surgery and Burns, Kaunas University of Medicine Hospital, Lithuania

Key words: life quality, leg ulcer, conservative treatment, skin grafting.

Summary. Leg ulcers of different etiology disable up to 1% of total population, and up to 15% individuals over 70 years old. It is an old disease, which troubles the patients and medical personnel and is hard to cure. It might take several years to cure the ulcer fully. Most of the patients with leg ulcers are being treated at home, not in the outpatient departments or hospitals; therefore there is not much information on how the ulcer affects the patient’s everyday life and its quality. The researchers often analyze only the financial part of this disorder forgetting its human part: pain, social isolation, and decreased mobility. There are many questionnaires and methods to analyze the quality of life of the patients with leg ulceration. It is often unclear if we should treat the ulcer conservatively for a long time or if part of resources should be used for operation (skin grafting) and the time of treatment should be shortened.

To see the advantage of both methods and the influence of the ulcer treatment to the quality of life we decided to estimate the functionality of surgical and conservative treatment. We have analyzed the case histories and the data of special questionnaires of 44 patients, which were treated in Department of Plastic Surgery and Burns of Kaunas University of Medicine Hospital in the period of 2001 January – 2004 February and had large trophic leg ulcers (m=254 cm²) for 6 months or more. Ten patients were treated conservatively and 34 patients were treated by skin grafting. All of them were interviewed after 3–6 months. We found that the pain in the place of the ulcers has decreased for the patients, who were treated surgically. By making the differences of the pain more exact we found out, that the patients have been feeling pain before the operation and when interviewing them the second time they told that they felt discomfort, not pain. The intensity of pain remained the same for the patients treated conservatively. The regression of pain also proves the decreased usage of painkillers in the group of the patients with the surgical treatment. All the patients (n=44) have had sleep disorders because of the ulcers. In the group of surgically treated patients, ulcers did not disturb the sleep after more than 3 months, and in the group, treated conservatively, the problem remained. We also found that after surgical treatment the patients were more optimistic and cried less. That shows the recovery of their emotional status. We have also found that the patients knew from the surgeon first than from the family doctor or other medical personnel about this disorder. We have made conclusions, that with the reduction of the ulcer area the pain is also reduced. Surgical treatment of ulcers (autodermoplasty) reveals a statistically reliable positive effect on patient life quality (sleep and emotions), but even 50% of patients are unaware of the real leg ulceration causes.

Correspondence to V. Jankūnas, Division of Plastic Surgery and Burns, Kaunas University of Medicine Hospital, Eivenių 2, 50010 Kaunas, Lithuania. E-mail:

Received 17 February 2004, accepted 1 June 2004