Economic Impact of Hand and Wrist Injuries: Health-Care Costs and Productivity Costs in a Population-Based Study

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Abstract

Background:

Injuries to the hand and wrist account for approximately 20% of patient visits to emergency departments and may impose a large economic burden. The purpose of this study was to estimate the total health-care costs and productivity costs of injuries to the hand and wrist and to compare them with other important injury groups in a nationwide study.

Methods:

Data were retrieved from the Dutch Injury Surveillance System, from the National Hospital Discharge Registry, and from a patient follow-up survey conducted between 2007 and 2008. Injury incidence, health-care costs, and productivity costs (due to absenteeism) were calculated by age group, sex, and different subgroups of injuries. An incidence-based cost model was used to estimate the health-care costs of injuries. Follow-up data on return to work rates were incorporated into the absenteeism model for estimating the productivity costs.

Results:

Hand and wrist injuries annually account for $740 million (in U.S. dollars) and rank first in the order of most expensive injury types, before knee and lower limb fractures ($562 million), hip fractures ($532 million), and skull-brain injury ($355 million). Productivity costs contributed more to the total costs of hand and wrist injuries (56%) than did direct health-care costs. Within the overall group of hand and wrist injuries, hand and finger fractures are the most expensive group ($278 million), largely due to high productivity costs in the age group of twenty to sixty-four years ($192 million).

Conclusions:

Hand and wrist injuries not only constitute a substantial part of all treated injuries but also represent a considerable economic burden, with both high health-care and productivity costs. Hand and wrist injuries should be a priority area for research in trauma care, and further research could help to reduce the cost of these injuries, both to the health-care system and to society.

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