31 Jan Economic Burden of Wound Infection
Technological advancements like the geko™ device have the potential to usher in a new era in the treatment of venous leg ulcers (VLUs) – a wound on the leg or ankle caused by abnormal or damaged veins. Wounds such as these are common and can have devastating impacts on patients and are costly for struggling healthcare systems. Wounds affect nearly 15 percent of individuals (8.2 million patients), and the annual cost is estimated to be $28 billion. New therapies, in addition to addressing the physical and emotional impact on patients, can provide significant cost savings for struggling healthcare systems.
VLUs are chronic skin ulcers that form above the ankle and below the knee. They are caused by damaged or blocked veins in the leg, often a result of trauma, varicose veins, or oedema (swelling). Chronic venous insufficiency results in a build-up of blood in the lower leg, which can cause significant ankle oedema and structural changes in the skin. This can eventually lead to ulceration and a multitude of adverse consequences.
Chronic leg ulcers affect up to three percent of adults over the age of 60, rising to more than five percent of adults over the age of 80. VLUs are the most common type of leg ulcer, accounting for roughly 80 percent of all cases and affecting 200,000 UK citizens alone.
Impact on Patients
VLUs have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life, causing excruciating pain and impeding their ability to walk or sleep. This can lead to lack of mobility, inability to work and subsequent mental health problems. This physical and emotional toll can continue until the wound heals however only 53 percent of patients heal within a year, and some never heal at all.
Hard to heal wounds are subsequently at a higher risk of infection, and those which become infected demand more time, money and resources from already overstretched healthcare systems. A study conducted by Bui et al found that in a group 636 patients with mixed leg ulcers (75 percent venous) 15.9 percent developed clinical infection within 12 weeks, and the total cost of treating infected patients ($27,408) was nearly three times greater than non-infected ($11,088).
Embracing Technological Solutions
Medical technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in VLU prevention and treatment. Clinicians are increasingly combining new therapies with established standards of care to improve leg ulcer healing in non-infected patients. The faster wounds can heal, the less opportunity there is for an infection. Non-invasive wearable medical devices that can enhance wound healing have the potential to save healthcare systems money.
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