Level 2: Mid-level evidence

Duct tape for warts was studied in a randomized, “placebo”-controlled trial (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:1121-1125). Children aged 4-12 years with warts (N=103) were randomized to have a single wart treated with duct tape vs. corn pad for six weeks. After seven days of application, the duct tape was removed and the wart was soaked in warm water, rubbed with a pumice stone, and left uncovered overnight. Duct tape was then reapplied for the next week, and the process was repeated. Patients in the corn-pad group applied the pad around the wart (not on the wart) for one night per week; they also soaked the wart and used a pumice stone one night per week. At baseline, 22% of patients in the duct-tape group had warts located on a finger or the dorsum of hand compared with 35% of patients in the corn-pad group. At the conclusion of six weeks, all of the participants were analyzed, but 17% of the duct-tape group and 6% of the corn-pad group had stopped applying the treatment.

Comparing duct tape vs. corn pad, 16% vs. 6% had resolution of the wart (NNT 10 but not statistically significant), 21% vs. 27% had resolution of an untreated wart in close proximity (not statistically significant), and 15% vs. 0% had a skin reaction caused by tape (not statistically significant). There was also a reduction in wart diameter of 1.2 mm vs. 0.4 mm (P =.008) from mean baseline diameter (about 4.5 mm).

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The trial did not have significant power to show meaningful differences between duct tape and control therapy. However, even a 16% resolution rate may be worth considering instead of more costly or destructive therapy.