Cost-of-illness studies in chronic ulcers: a systematic review

J Wound Care. 2017 Apr 1;26(sup4):S4-S14. doi: 10.12968/jowc.2017.26.Sup4.S4.


Objective: To systematically review the published academic literature on the cost of chronic ulcers.

Methods: A literature search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, HealthSTAR, Econlit and CINAHL up to 12 May 2016 to identify potential studies for review. Cost search terms were based on validated algorithms. Clinical search terms were based on recent Cochrane reviews of interventions for chronic ulcers. Titles and abstracts were screened by two reviewers to determine eligibility for full text review. Study characteristics were summarised. The quality of reporting was evaluated using a modified cost-of-illness checklist. Mean costs were adjusted and inflated to 2015 $US and presented for different durations and perspectives.

Results: Of 2267 studies identified, 36 were eligible and included in the systematic review. Most studies presented results from the health-care public payer or hospital perspective. Many studies included hospital costs in the analysis and only reported total costs without presenting condition-specific attributable costs. The mean cost of chronic ulcers ranged from $1000 per year for patient out of pocket costs to $30,000 per episode from the health-care public payer perspective. Mean one year cost from a health-care public payer perspective was $44,200 for diabetic foot ulcer (DFU), $15,400 for pressure ulcer (PU) and $11,000 for leg ulcer (LU).

Conclusions: There was large variability in study methods, perspectives, cost components and jurisdictions, making interpretation of costs difficult. Nevertheless, it appears that the cost for the treatment of chronic ulcers is substantial and greater attention needs to be made for preventive measures.

Keywords: cost-of-illness; diabetic foot; health care costs; health services research; leg ulcer; pressure ulcer.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bandages / economics*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diabetic Foot / economics*
  • Drug Costs*
  • Equipment and Supplies / economics
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Humans
  • Leg Ulcer / economics
  • Pressure Ulcer / economics*