1. Topical irrigation with normal saline is known to produce rapid healing in chronic leg ulcers. This study was designed to determine if the rate of healing could be improved by the addition of topical nutrition to the irrigating solution.
2. Forty-eight patients with chronic leg ulcers were admitted to hospital for a minimum of 6 weeks bed-rest. During this time the ulcers were continuously irrigated by one of four test solutions. The solutions were: normal saline; a dilute amino acid solution isotonic with the normal saline; a hyperosmolar saline solution; a hyperosmolar amino acid solution. There were 12 ulcers in each group.
3. The amino acid solutions produced significantly faster healing than the saline solutions (P < 0.01). Concentration had no significant effect on healing (P > 0.15).
4. The application of amino acids does appear to enhance healing in this model of delayed wound healing. This effect does not depend only on the osmolarity of the solution used.