Objective: Changes in technology have resulted in a lack of clarity regarding the comparative effectiveness between active and reactive support surfaces in the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers (PUs). The purpose of this literature review was to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of active and reactive mattresses for prevention and treatment of PUs. Method: A literature search was completed using CINAHL, Medline Plus, Scopus, Cochrane Library and PubMed databases, as well as reference lists. A temporal limiter was placed excluding studies published before 2000 due to changes in care standards and support surface technology. Results: Of the 33 articles included, nine were systematic/literature reviews and 24 were randomised controlled trials (RCTs). There was a consensus that pressure mattresses are an effective prevention and treatment strategy, however comparisons of the two types were often inconclusive or conflicting. Studies were conducted in acute, sub-acute or residential facilities, with no studies in a domiciliary setting. The majority of studies were rated as moderate quality with significant methodological limitations. Conclusion: Further research is needed to investigate the use of support surfaces in a domiciliary setting with an appropriate methodology aimed at minimising the limitations described in the existing literature. Declaration of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest.