Alternative medicine often relies on nutritional supplements to augment deficiencies in disease states. Because the exudate of pressure ulcers are a source of bodily protein loss, daily intake of up to 2.0 g/kg of protein for individuals at risk of pressure ulcer development is advocated by Van Anholt et al. (2010). Similarly, supplementation with amino acids that act as substrates for protein synthesis and subsequent nitrogen balancing may also promote pressure ulcer healing. Brewer et al. (2010) undertook to test the effectiveness in supplementing individuals with SCI with the semi-essential amino acid, arginine, for improvement in pressure ulcer healing.
Brewer et al. (2010) compared a cohort of 18 community dwelling individuals with SCI and pressure ulcers, who were supplemented with 9 g/day powdered arginine, against audits of a matched historical control group. Arginine treatment continued until pressure ulcers were healed but it should be noted that the supplemental powder also contained carbohydrates and vitamins C and E, the latter vitamins of which are controversial in their effects over pressure ulcer healing in other patient populations (Ehrlich et al.1972; Vilter 1980; Albina 1994; Dorner et al. 2012). However, the authors did take care to exclude participants who presented with other healing comorbidities such as renal insufficiency, metabolic diseases and other co-morbidities. The resulting healing time was significantly improved by half the number of weeks required for healing by the historical controls across all categories of pressure ulcers (p<0.006).
There is level 4 evidence (from one pre-post study; Brewer et al. 2010) for arginine supplementation for pressure ulcer healing.
Arginine supplementation in individuals with SCI may be helpful in accelerating pressure ulcer healing.