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ABSTRACT

In the United States, chronic wounds affect 6.5 million patients. An estimated excess of US$25 billion is spent annually on treatment of chronic wounds and the burden is rapidly growing due to increasing health care costs, an aging population and a sharp rise in the incidence of diabetes and obesity worldwide. The annual wound care products market is projected to reach $15.3 billion by 2010. Chronic wounds are rarely seen in individuals who are otherwise healthy. In fact, chronic wound patients frequently suffer from "highly branded" diseases such as diabetes and obesity. This seems to have overshadowed the significance of wounds per se as a major health problem. For example, NIH's Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT; http://report.nih.gov/), directed at providing access to estimates of funding for various disease conditions does list several rare diseases but does not list wounds. Forty million inpatient surgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2000, followed closely by 31.5 million outpatient surgeries. The need for post-surgical wound care is sharply on the rise. Emergency wound care in an acute setting has major significance not only in a war setting but also in homeland preparedness against natural disasters as well as against terrorism attacks. An additional burden of wound healing is the problem of skin scarring, a $12 billion annual market. The immense economic and social impact of wounds in our society calls for allocation of a higher level of attention and resources to understand biological mechanisms underlying cutaneous wound complications.