Burden of Infected Diabetic Foot Ulcers on Hospital Admissions and Costs

Caitlin W. Hicks, Shalini Selvarajah, Nestoras Mathioudakis, Ronald E. Sherman, Kathryn F. Hines, James H. Black, Christopher J. Abularrage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Background Costs related to diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) care are greater than $1 billion annually and rising. We sought to describe the impact of diabetes mellitus (DM) on foot ulcer admissions in the United States, and to investigate potential explanations for rising hospital costs. Methods The Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2005–2010) was queried using International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision (ICD-9) codes for a primary diagnosis of foot ulceration. Multivariable analyses were used to compare outcomes and per-admission costs among patients with foot ulceration and DM versus non-DM. Results In total, 962,496 foot ulcer patients were admitted over the study period. The overall rate of admissions was relatively stable over time, but the ratio of DM versus non-DM admissions increased significantly (2005: 10.2 vs. 2010: 12.7; P < 0.001). Neuropathy and infection accounted for 90% of DFU admissions, while peripheral vascular disease accounted for most non-DM admissions. Admissions related to infection rose significantly among DM patients (2005: 39,682 vs. 2010: 51,660; P < 0.001), but remained stable among non-DM patients. Overall, DM accounted for 83% and 96% of all major and minor amputations related to foot ulcers, respectively, and significantly increased cost of care (DM: $1.38 vs. non-DM: $0.13 billion/year; P < 0.001). Hospital costs per DFU admission were significantly higher for patients with infection compared with all other causes ($11,290 vs. $8,145; P < 0.001). Conclusions Diabetes increases the incidence of foot ulcer admissions by 11-fold, accounting for more than 80% of all amputations and increasing hospital costs more than 10-fold over the 5 years. The majority of these costs are related to the treatment of infected foot ulcers. Education initiatives and early prevention strategies through outpatient multidisciplinary care targeted at high-risk populations are essential to preventing further increases in what is already a substantial economic burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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