Prevalence of chronic wounds in the general population: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Ann Epidemiol. 2019 Jan:29:8-15. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2018.10.005. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Purpose: Chronic wounds are a major public health challenge, but little is known about the true burden with studies reporting different estimates because of disparities in study designs and measurement methods. This hampers efficient resource allocation, planning, and improvement of wound care.

Methods: Our study aimed to pool prevalence estimates from a global perspective by systematically carrying out searches in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, CINAHL, Global Health, and PsycINFO databases for articles reporting the prevalence of chronic wounds in adults, from January 2000 to June 2018. The included publications had to define wound chronicity by duration (≥3 weeks), and/or labeling the wounds as chronic, complex, or hard-to-heal.

Results: Seventeen studies met the inclusion criteria, and 11 studies analyzing chronic wounds in the general population were included in random effects meta-analyses to calculate pooled prevalence. Chronic wounds of mixed etiologies (n = 3) showed a pooled prevalence of 2.21 per 1000 population, and for chronic leg ulcers (n = 9), the prevalence was estimated at 1.51 per 1000 population.

Conclusions: Our findings, aligned to previous studies reporting point prevalence of chronic wounds identified within the healthcare system, showed that the vast majority of chronic wounds in epidemiological studies are made up by chronic leg ulcers.

Keywords: Chronic wounds; Complex wounds; Hard-to-heal ulcers; Meta-analysis; Prevalence; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observational Studies as Topic*
  • Prevalence
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*