Identification of symptom clusters in patients with chronic venous leg ulcers

Helen Edwards, Kathleen Finlayson, Helen Skerman, Kimberly Alexander, Christine Miaskowski, Bradley Aouizerat, Michelle Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context Patients with venous leg ulcers experience multiple symptoms, including pain, depression, and discomfort from lower leg inflammation and wound exudate. Some of these symptoms impair wound healing and decrease quality of life (QOL). The presence of co-occurring symptoms may have a negative effect on these outcomes. The identification of symptom clusters could potentially lead to improvements in symptom management and QOL. Objectives To identify the prevalence and severity of common symptoms and the occurrence of symptom clusters in patients with venous leg ulcers. Methods For this secondary analysis, data on sociodemographic characteristics, medical history, venous history, ulcer and lower limb clinical characteristics, symptoms, treatments, healing, and QOL were analyzed from a sample of 318 patients with venous leg ulcers who were recruited from hospital outpatient and community nursing clinics for leg ulcers. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify symptom clusters. Results Almost two-thirds (64%) of the patients experienced four or more concurrent symptoms. The most frequent symptoms were sleep disturbance (80%), pain (74%), and lower limb swelling (67%). Sixty percent of patients reported three or more symptoms at a moderate-to-severe level of intensity (e.g., 78% reported disturbed sleep frequently or always; the mean pain severity score was 49 of 100, SD 26.5). Exploratory factor analysis identified two symptom clusters: pain, depression, sleep disturbance, and fatigue; and swelling, inflammation, exudate, and fatigue. Conclusion Two symptom clusters were identified in this sample of patients with venous leg ulcers. Further research is needed to verify these symptom clusters and to evaluate their effect on patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-875
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Venous leg ulcers
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • sleep disturbance
  • symptom clusters
  • venous insufficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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