Illustration of cost saving implications of lower extremity nerve decompression to prevent recurrence of diabetic foot ulceration

Timothy M. Rankin, John D. Miller, Angelika C. Gruessner, D. Scott Nickerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The US diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) incidence is 3-4% of 22.3 million diagnosed diabetes cases plus 6.3 million undiagnosed, 858 000 cases total. Risk of recurrence after healing is 30% annually. Lower extremity multiple nerve decompression (ND) surgery reduces neuropathic DFU (nDFU) recurrence risk by >80%. Cost effectiveness of hypothetical ND implementation to minimize nDFU recurrence is compared to the current $6.171 billion annual nDFU expense. A literature review identified best estimates of annual incidence, recurrence risk, medical management expense, and noneconomic costs for DFU. Illustrative cost/benefit calculations were performed assuming widespread application of bilateral ND after wound healing to the nDFU problem, using Center for Medicare Services mean expense data of $1143/case for unilateral lower extremity ND. Calculations use conservative, evidence-based cost figures, which are contemporary (2012) or adjusted for inflation. Widespread adoption of ND after nDFU healing could reduce annual DFU occurrences by at least 21% in the third year and 24% by year 5, representing calculated cost savings of $1.296 billion (year 3) to $1.481 billion (year 5). This scenario proffers significant expense reduction and societal benefit, and represents a minimum 1.9× return on the investment cost for surgical treatment. Further large cost savings would require reductions in initial DFU incidence, which ND might achieve by selective application to advanced diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy (DSPN). By minimizing the contribution of recurrences to yearly nDFU incidence, ND has potential to reduce by nearly $1 billion the annual cost of DFU treatment in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-880
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Diabetes Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2015


  • Diabetes
  • Diabetic foot
  • Diabetic foot ulcer
  • Diabetic foot ulcer recurrence
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Nerve decompression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering


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