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Laughter and nursing care heal venous leg ulcers better than ultrasound

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Laughter can help heal leg ulcers

Laughter can be good medicine, shown by numerous studies that point to increased immunity, lower stress and improved cardiovascular health. A new study shows a good belly laugh improves circulation and can help heal venous leg ulcers - combined with good nursing care that is.

Laughter stimulates blood flow to heal leg ulcers

In a five year study conducted by researchers at University of Leeds, scientists found low-dose ultrasound that delivers refractory sound waves to promote healing, provided no extra benefits for treating venous leg ulcers, compared to traditional nursing care and an occasional laugh to stimulate the diaphragm and promote circulation.

Ultrasound no help, costly

Professor Andrea Nelson from the University of Leeds' School of Healthcare, who led the study said, "The 'healing energy' of low-dose ultrasound can make a difference to some medical conditions but with venous leg ulcers, this is simply not the case."

The goal says Dr. Nelson, is to stimulate blood flow from the legs back up to the heart. Standard treatment includes exercise, compression hose and bandages and diet, but not ultrasound that Nelson calls "magic wands".

Nelson says, Believe it or not, having a really hearty chuckle can help too. This is because laughing gets the diaphragm moving and this plays a vital part in moving blood around the body."

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Leg ulcers that occur from varicose veins are unsightly and take months to heal. The scientists conducted the study, published in the British Journal of Medicine, to see which treatment work best. Ultrasound was found to be costly and, though has other therapeutic applications, was no benefit for helping venous stasis ulcers heal.

The cause of the difficult to heal, painful ulcers is poor circulation combined with faulty valves in the leg veins that often affects diabetics and obese individuals. Some ulcers can take up to a year to heal.

The authors note that with the rising rates of obesity, the number of people with venous ulcer is likely to increase and say it's important to find ways to help patients whose ulcers wont go away.

Nelson says, "We do need to find ways to helping those patients who ulcers won't go away, but our study shows that ultrasound is not the way to do that. We need to focus on what really matters, which is good quality nursing care. There really is no need for the NHS to provide district nurses with ultrasound machines. This would not be money well spent."

For the study, researchers chose patients whose leg ulcers had been present for six months or more and ankle to brachial pressure index of ≥0.8.

For up to twelve weeks the study group received standard nursing care, combined with weekly low dose ultrasound or just standard care, to compare rates of healing. There was no difference in length of time to healing, showing ultrasound is not useful for healing venous leg ulcers and results in substantially higher cost of treatment. The researchers say laughter and good nursing care can help heal leg wounds.