Psychological stress and wound healing in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Walburn, Jessica ; Vedhara, Kavita ; Hankins, Matthew ; Rixon, Lorna ; Weinman, John (2009)

Objective: The current review aims to synthesize existing knowledge about the relationship between psychological stress and wound healing. \ud Methods: A systematic search strategy was conducted using electronic databases to search for published articles up to the end of October 2007. The reference lists of retrieved articles were inspected for further studies and citation searches were conducted. In addition, a meta-analysis of a subset of studies was conducted to provide a quantitative estimation of the influence of stress on wound healing. Results: Twenty-two papers met the inclusion criteria of the systematic review and a subsample of 11 was included in a meta-analysis. The studies assessed the impact of stress on the healing of a variety of wound types in different contexts, including acute and chronic clinical wounds, experimentally created punch biopsy and blister wounds, and minor damage to the skin caused by tape stripping. Seventeen studies in the systematic review reported that stress was associated with impaired healing or dysregulation of a biomarker related to wound healing. The relationship between stress and wound healing estimated by the meta-analysis was r=−0.42 (95% CI=−0.51 to −0.32) (P<.01). \ud Conclusion: Attention now needs to be directed towards investigating potential moderators of the relationship, mediating mechanisms underpinning the association, as well as the demonstration of a causal link by the development of experimental interventions in healthy populations.
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