Study Quantifies the High Cost of Hand and Wrist Injuries
Injuries to the hand and wrist account for a significant number of annual emergency department visits each year in the U.S. and throughout the world. In fact, more than 2 million people visited U.S. emergency rooms for symptoms related to the hand and wrist in 2009. Investigators in the Netherlands recently quantified the frequency of these injuries in that country, as well as the cost of treatment and lost productivity (as measured in absenteeism), and compared them with other emergency department injuries. The study, "Economic Impact of Hand and Wrist Injuries: Health-Care Costs and Productivity Costs in a Population Study," appears in the May 2, 2012 issue ofJBJS.
Investigators reviewed data from the Dutch Injury Surveillance System, the National Hospital Discharge Registry, and a patient follow-up survey from 2007 and 2008. Injury incidence, health care costs, and productivity costs were calculated by age group, sex, and different subgroups of injuries.
Hand and wrist injuries cost approximately $740 million (in U.S. dollars) each year, and are the most expensive injury type in the Netherlands, followed by knee and lower limb fractures ($562 million), hip fractures ($532 million), and skull-brain injuries ($355 million). Productivity costs contributed more to the total costs of hand and wrist injuries (56 percent) than did costs for treatment and care. Among the subtypes of hand and wrist injuries, hand and finger fractures were the most expensive, costing approximately $278 million each year, largely due to loss of productivity in patients 20 to 64 years of age.
The study authors conclude that hand and wrist injuries are more common compared to injuries in other areas of the body. Further research is needed on potential risk factors to prevent hand and wrist injuries and on rehabilitation interventions to lower the time off work.
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