Diabetic foot ulcers and infections are common and incur substantial economic burden for society, patients and families. We performed a comprehensive review, on a number of databases, of health economic evaluations of a variety of different prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies in the area of diabetic foot ulcers and infections. We included English-language, peer-reviewed, cost-effectiveness, cost-minimization, cost-utility and cost-benefit studies that evaluated a treatment modality against placebo or comparator (i.e. drug, standard of care), regardless of year. Differences were settled through consensus.
The search resulted in 1885 potential citations, of which 20 studies were retained for analysis (3 cost minimization, 13 cost effectiveness and 4 cost utility). Quality scores of studies ranged from 70.8% (fair) to 87.5% (good); mean = 78.4% ± 5.33%.
In diagnosing osteomyelitis in patients with diabetic foot infection, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed 82% sensitivity and 80% specificity. MRI cost less than 3-phase bone scanning + Indium (In)-111/Gallium (Ga)-67; however, when compared with prolonged antibacterials, MRI cost $US120 (year 1993 value) more without additional quality-adjusted life-expectancy. Prevention strategies improved life expectancy and QALYs and reduced foot ulcer rates and amputations.
Ampicillin/sulbactam and imipenem/cilastatin were both 80% successful in treating diabetic foot infections but the latter cost $US2924 more (year 1994 value). Linezolid cure rates were higher (97.7%) than vancomycin (86.0%) and cost $US873 less (year 2004 value). Ertapenem costs were significantly lower than piperacillin/tazobactam ($US356 vs $US503, respectively; year 2005 values). Becaplermin plus good wound care may be cost effective in specific populations. Bioengineered living-skin equivalents increased ulcer-free months and ulcers healed, but costs varied between countries. Promogran® produced more ulcer-free months than wound care alone (3.75 vs 3.41 months, respectively). Treatment with cadexomer iodine resulted in higher rates of healed ulcer (29% vs 11%) and lower weekly treatment costs (Swedish krona [SEK]903 vs SEK1421; year 1993 values) than standard care. Filgrastim decreased hospital stays, time to resolution and costs (36% lower) compared with usual care. Adjunctive hyperbaric oxygen produced an incremental cost per QALY at year 1 of $US27 310 and $US2255 at year 12 (year 2001 values).
Overall, preventive strategies were shown to be cost effective and potentially cost saving. Various antibacterial regimens are cost effective but empiric choices should be based on local resistance patterns. MRI was cost effective compared with three-phase bone scanning + In-111/Ga-67 but not against prolonged antibacterial therapy. Other innovations (becaplermin, bioengineered living-skin equivalents, filgrastim, cadexomer iodine ointment, hyperbaric oxygen, Promogran®) may be cost effective in this population but more studies are needed to confirm these findings.