Publication of UK NICE Clinical Guidelines 168 has not significantly changed the management of leg ulcers in primary care: an analysis of The Health Improvement Network database

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Huw Davies
  • Matthew Popplewell
  • Gareth Bate


Background: NICE Clinical Guidelines (CG) 168, published in July 2013, recommend specialist vascular referral for all leg ulcers, defined as a break in the skin below the knee that has not healed within two weeks.

Aim: To examine the impact of CG168 on the primary care management of leg ulcers using The Health Improvement Network database.

Methods: An eligible population of approximately two million adult patients was analysed over two 18-month periods before and after publication of CG168. Those with a new diagnosis of leg ulcers in each time period were analysed in terms of demographics, specialist referral and superficial venous ablation.

Results: We identified 7532 and 7462 new diagnoses of leg ulcers in the pre- and post-CG168 cohorts, respectively. Patients with a new diagnosis of leg ulcers were elderly (median age: 77 years both cohorts) and less likely to be male (47% both cohorts). There were 2259 (30.0%) and 2329 (31.2%) vascular service referrals in the pre- and post-CG168 cohorts, respectively (hazard ratio, 1.05, 95% CI: 0.99, 1.11, p¼0.096). The median interval between general practitioner diagnosis and referral was 1.5 days in both cohorts. Patients from both cohorts who were referred for a new diagnosis of leg ulcers were equally likely to receive superficial venous ablation.

Conclusions: Disappointingly, we have been unable to demonstrate that publication of NICE CG168 has been associated with a meaningful change in leg ulcer management in primary care in line with guideline recommendations.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Early online date18 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Oct 2018


  • leg ulceration, ulcer, The Health Improvement Network, primary care, NICE, guidelines