Document Type




Format of Original

11 p.

Publication Date



American Physical Therapy Association

Source Publication

Physical Therapy

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1093/ptj/71.9.639


The purposes of this randomized, double-blind, multicenter study were to compare healing of chronic dermal ulcers treated with pulsed electrical stimulation with healing of similar wounds treated with sham electrical stimulation and to evaluate patient tolerance to the therapeutic protocol. Forty-seven patients, aged 29 to 91 years, with 50 stage II, III, and IV ulcers were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (n=26) or a control (sham treatment) group (n=24). Treated wounds received 30 minutes of pulsed cathodal electrical stimulation twice daily at a pulse frequency of 128 pulses per second (pps) and a peak amplitude of 29.2 mA if the wound contained necrotic tissue or any drainage that was not serosanguinous. A saline-moistened nontreatment electrode was applied 30.5 cm (12 in) cephalad from the wound. This protocol was continued for 3 days after the wound was debrided or exhibited serosanguinous drainage. Thereafter, the polarity of the treatment electrode on the wound was changed every 3 days until the wound progressed to a stage II classification. The pulse frequency was then reduced to 64 pps, and the treatment electrode polarity was changed daily until the wound was healed. Patients in the control group were treated with the same protocol, except they received sham electrical stimulation. After 4 weeks, wounds in the treatment and control groups were 44% and 67% of their initial size, respectively. The healing rates per week for the treatment and control groups were 14% and 8.25%, respectively. The results of this study indicate that pulsed electrical stimulation has a beneficial effect on healing stage II, III, and IV chronic dermal ulcers.


Published version. Physical Therapy, Vol. 7, No. 9 (September 1991): 639-649. DOI. © American Physical Therapy Association 1991. Used with permission.