A randomized phase I/II double-blind, placebo-controlled study was designed to evaluate 1, 10, and 100 micrograms/ml (0.01, 0.1, and 1.0 micrograms/cm2) recombinant human BB homodimeric platelet-derived growth factor (rPDGF-BB) applied topically to chronic pressure ulcers for 28 days. Twenty patients were enrolled and completed the trial. No toxicities were associated with rPDGF-BB treatment. Patients treated with 100 micrograms/ml of rPDGF-BB had a pronounced healing response compared with placebo-treated patients. By day 29, ulcers treated with 100 micrograms/ml of rPDGF-BB were smaller in remaining size compared with those of placebo-treated patients when the following specific parameters were measured: percentage of initial depth (14.1 +/- 7.4 vs. 34.9 +/- 6.7) and percentage of initial volume (6.4 +/- 4.0 vs. 21.8 +/- 5.6). Histological analyses of biopsies revealed active wound healing processes in all groups with no disruption in the normal healing sequence in rPDGF-BB-treated wounds. The results of this small, descriptive study suggest rPDGF-BB is a potent vulnerary agent for accelerating soft-tissue repair, warranting further study.