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The human cost of wounds

The human cost of wounds is measured in pain, distress, embarrassment, anxiety, prolonged hospital stays, chronic morbidity or even death. Much of this suffering is preventable.

A stage IV pressure ulcer cuts to the bone, causes considerable pain, and can add three months or longer to hospital stays. However, 60% to 80% of all pressure ulcers are hospital acquired and as such are deemed as preventable3

Wound infection increases exudate to distressing levels, causes inflammation, pain and odour, and can result in further surgical interventions for debridement or excision. Yet modern dressings and best-practice techniques can reduce wound infection from its current, unacceptably high base.

Much can be done to prevent diabetic foot ulceration, yet annual incidence for patients with diabetes in the US continues at 2-3%.4  Studies show that as many as 57% of these patients will suffer the drastic measure of amputation.1

Contrary to common belief, the tools and techniques for reducing the human burden of wounds do not imply extra cost to the system; overall, they actually reduce it.


Living with a Wound

Living with a woundClinicians, Industry and Healthcare organisations will often focus on the more tangible elements of wound healing such as appearance of the wound bed and reduction in size and depth of the wound, but the impact on patients living with a wound is much more complex.

It has been acknowledged that the psychological wellbeing of a patient can be associated with the delayed healing of wounds.6,7

With the potential for psychological factors like anxiety and depression prolonging the healing process, and many patients focusing on different priorities such as pain and odour, there is now good evidence to suggest that where a patient is actively involved in their own care, outcomes improve.8

That’s why at Smith & Nephew one of our key aims is to reduce the human cost of wounds by designing products and solutions that are not only effective treatments for the wound itself, but also address the important issue of patient wellbeing.

For more information about our commitment to promoting patient wellbeing, visit Smith & Nephew's Wellbeing with a Wound web site 



1 Posnett J, Gottrup F, Lundgren H, Saal G.  The resource impact of wounds on healthcare providers in Europe.  Journal of Wound Care, 2009; 18(4):154-161

2 Wild, S., Roglic, G., Green, A. et al.  Global prevalence of diabetes: estimates for the year 2000 and projections for 2030.  diabetes Care 2004; 27: 1047-1053.

3 Bales I, 2009.  Reaching for the moon: achieving zero pressure ulcer prevalence.  J Wound Care. 2009 Apr; 18(4):137-144

4 Reiber, G.E., Boyko, E.J., Smith, D.G.  Lower extremity foot ulcers and amputations in diabetes.  In: National Diabetes Data Group, National Institutes of Health.  Diabetes in America (2nd edn).  Us Government Printing Office (NIH pub. No. 95-1468), 1995.

5 Drew P, Posnett J, Rusling L, on behalf of the Wound Care Audit Team.  The cost of wound care for a local population in England.  Int Wound J 2007:4:149-155.

6Cole-King A, Harding KG. Psychological factors and delayed healing in chronic wounds. Psychosom Med 2001;63(2):216-20.

7Vedhara K, Miles JN, Wetherell JM. coping style and depression influence the healing of diabetic foot ulcers: observational and mechanistic evidence. Diabetologica 2010;53(8):1590-8.

8Department of Health. The White Paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’, 2011.