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Introduction: This study examined the relative efficacy of growth factor therapies in healing diabetes-related foot ulcers (DFU).

Methods: PubMed and Cochrane databases were searched for randomized controlled trials testing growth factor therapies for treating DFU. The primary outcome was complete wound closure. Results were reported as relative risk (RR) /- 95% credible intervals (CrI). The risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane's RoB-2 tool.

Results: A total of 31 RCTs involving 2174 participants were included. Only 13 of the trials (n = 924) reported on the aetiology of the ulcers (85.4% neuropathic and 14.6% ischaemic). Epidermal growth factor (RR 3.83; 95% CrI 1.81, 9.10), plasma-rich protein (PRP) (RR 3.36; 95% CrI 1.66, 8.03) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) (RR 2.47; 95% CrI 1.23, 5.17) significantly improved the likelihood of complete ulcer healing compared to control. Sub-analyses suggested that PRP (3 trials - RR 9.69; 95% CrI 1.37, 103.37) and PDGF (6 trials - RR 2.22; 95% CrI 1.12, 5.19) significantly improved the likelihood of wound closure amongst trial mainly recruiting participants with neuropathic ulcers. Eleven trials had a low risk of bias, 9 had some concerns and 11 had a high risk of bias. Sub-analysis of trials with a low risk of bias suggested that none of the growth factors significantly improved ulcer healing compared with control.

Discussion: This network meta-analysis found low-quality evidence that Epidermal growth factor, PRP and PDGF therapy improved DFU healing likelihood compared with control. Larger well-designed trials are needed.

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