The Human Burden of Wound Care

To the person with a chronic wound, the condition represents pain, social and psychological debilitation and usually a financial load. To society, wound care—and especially the treatment of difficult-to-heal wounds—may represent great human suffering, social discomfort, days lost from work, mental health problems, recurrent infections and great economic burden and the human burden of wound care. Having a chronic wound not only necessitates physical care of the wound, including cleaning, disinfecting, irrigating, and changing dressings; it also impacts the emotional and psychological health of the patient. Depression can set in due to a lower quality of life and dependence on others for care of the wound, as well as for overall assistance, both physical and financial. Wounds may cause odors or may have visible drainage, staining clothing and triggering feelings of embarrassment and shame. These in turn may lead to isolation due to decreased mobility and the fear of being a burden on family and friends. To make things worse, increased stress can slow the progress of wound healing.

In caring for a chronic wound, the dressing costs are only part of the picture; the less visible costs include such items as nursing care, medications for pain and infections, and hospitalization. Hospitalization is a leading cost driver for wound care, accounting for at least 50% of the global economic burden. Nursing time to properly care for the patient with a chronic wound can be lengthy, and this is time that could be spent with other patients. In a new report published in the December 2017 online version of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research’s (ISPOR) Value in Health journal (An Economic Evaluation of the Impact, Cost, and Medicare Policy Implications of Chronic Nonhealing Wounds. Nussbaum, Samuel R. et al. Value in Health, Volume 21 , Issue 1 , 27 – 32) (see the study), the researchers found that the costs related to wound care in the Medicare population (USA) were much higher than originally estimated, and that care took place primarily in outpatient settings. For the calendar year 2014, there is considerable variation in the estimates originating from different sources:

“Total Medicare spending estimates for all wound types ranged from $28.1 to $96.8 billion. Including infection costs, the most expensive estimates were for surgical wounds ($11.7, $13.1, and $38.3 billion), followed by diabetic foot ulcers ($6.2, $6.9, and $18.7 billion,). The highest cost estimates in regard to site of service were for hospital outpatients ($9.9–$35.8 billion), followed by hospital inpatients ($5.0–$24.3 billion).”

The development of advanced wound care dressings, devices and biologics is helping to change this situation. Although these advanced products may seem (or may be) expensive, they end up saving money for health care systems by healing wounds more rapidly.

Industry Structure

The wound care industry remains quite fragmented, with about eight companies holding leading market shares, but with possibly thousands of small cap companies around the world that are also manufacturing and marketing various wound care products. The Traditional Wound Care space remains attractive, in part since gauze dressings are relatively easy to manufacture and are also still the most commonly-used wound dressing. Even a small company can invent a novel twist to a dressing and experience a rise in profits and inroads into the market.

Low to medium industry concentration. As the traditional and advanced market shares diagrams below demonstrate, there are five to eight major players in Traditional and Advanced Wound Care Markets.

Traditional Wound Care Market Shares, 2017

Source: Report S254, “Wound Management to 2026”.

While these firms account for about 79% and 73% of the total markets, respectively, a significant portion of these markets are covered by hundreds or thousands of Other companies. This low to medium level of concentration means that smaller companies, or large companies looking to break into Wound Care, are able to do so more easily than if, say, three companies controlled 95% of the market.

Johnson & Johnson is estimated to be the Traditional Wound Care market leader with about 26% share, followed by Smith & Nephew, 3M Health Care and Hartmann. Medline Industries is estimated to account for about 8%, while Others account for about 21% of this market.

Breaking into the Advanced Wound Care markets presents a somewhat greater challenge. Here, the leading companies have invested heavily in R&D to gain strategic competitive advantage, as well as to create improved products for patients. Smith & Nephew is holds an estimated 21% of this market, followed by Acelity and Johnson & Johnson with 11% each, and Mölnlycke, 3M Health Care, Hartmann, Cardinal Health and ConvaTec accounting for smaller shares. Here again, Others accounts for at least 27% of this market.

Advanced Wound Care Market Shares, 2017

Source: Report S254. 

Opportunities exist in both Traditional and Advanced Wound Care, especially if a company is in the position of acquiring part or all of an existing wound care company, and if the company can then invest in the development of its new products. If points of distribution overlap, then so much the better.

Relatively low barriers to entry. Good news for companies wishing to break into wound care: barriers to entry into the traditional wound dressing segments (Adherents, Gauze and Non-Adherent Dressings) are relatively low, while demand remains strong. Typically, once a company is established in a traditional segment, it may either plow revenues into research and development, or it may acquire companies to more easily break into new product segments and markets. Many companies in wound care have followed just this path to gain market share and make an impact in the industry.


From, “Wound Management to 2026”; Report S254. Excerpts available on request.

Dermal repair disorders, prevalence and applications for securement products

Skin securement has always been an essential final step in surgical procedures. Historically, the skin surface was sutured; in recent years a number of advances have been made, including new tapes, sutures, staples, hemostats, and glues.  High strength glues, in particular, find some of their biggest potential in dermal applications, given the problems of, for example, cyanoacrylate toxicity for internal applications.

The applications for skin securement are categorized by burns, ulcers (pressure, venous) and plastic surgery.  While the most acute need is in the area of burn treatment, the vast majority of procedures in skin securement are comprised of ulcers and plastic surgery. 

dermal-repairPressure ulcers develop in immobile patients who often suffer from underlying biochemical deficiencies that lead to inadequate skin healing. Prevalence is highest in the old and infirm, and incidence is increasing in line with aging of the population. Sealants, hemostats, and closure products provide opportunities for a radical surgical method to treat these life-threatening wounds, which normally would be treated with conservative (though often sophisticated) wound healing products designed to reduce points of pressure, mask smell and absorb excess moisture while the body repairs itself. The strongest opportunity for use of surgically oriented products for repair of pressure ulcers is among young paraplegics and short-term acute care patients who are immobilized but otherwise healthy (approximately 5% of all pressure ulcers).

In diabetic ulcers, diabetes causes many abnormalities in tissue biochemistry and nutrition, many of which lead to impaired tissue healing. In addition, diabetes leads to conditions of hypoxia and peripheral neuropathy that can directly cause ulcers. Approximately 800,000 diabetics in the United States have diabetic foot ulcers; closure and securement products offer a surgical route to aiding repair that may offer potential to accelerate repair in a number cases.

There are approximately one million venous ulcer patients in the United States today. Prevalence is increasing in line with aging demographics exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle. Venous ulcers are caused by underlying vascular and venous flow abnormalities, which can often be treated by knowledgeable application of pressure bandaging and, in some cases, appropriate topical wound care. However, this treatment is largely symptomatic and many physicians believe surgical intervention to repair the underlying vascular abnormalities is required to effect a cure and avoid tissue breakdown. Sealants, hemostats, and closure products offer a surgical route to aiding repair that may offer potential to accelerate repair in a number cases.

About 2 million plastic surgery (cosmetic) procedures are performed in the United States every year. The most popular procedures are liposuction (455,000) and breast augmentation (365,000). Most of the latter use synthetic materials and biomaterials for augmentation purposes. Other procedures where sealant products may be relevant include rhinoplasty (200,000), abdominoplasty (170,000) and eyelid surgery (230,000).

Adjunctive products for securement and closure offer potential to improve surgical procedure, reduce infections, and improve aesthetic and physiological properties of newly repaired tissues, as well as offering more rapid rehabilitation and the avoidance of donor site morbidity in approximately 27,000 of these operations involving the use of donated tissue from another region of the patient’s body.


See report #S175, "Worldwide Surgical Sealants, Glues and Wound Closure Market."

Dermal repair and market for securement products worldwide

Skin securement (sealing, closure, hemostasis, etc.) has always been an essential final step in surgical procedures. In early years, the skin surface was sutured; in recent years a number of advances have been made, including new tapes, sutures, staples, hemostats, and glues.

Treatments for skin or dermal repair by surgical securement products represent a worldwide caseload of over 20 million annually.  Burns represent the most serious of these cases, but roughly 25% of patients with burns die from them and overall are far fewer than ulcers.  Ulcers, which may be caused by inadequate circulation, biochemical deficience or other causes, are a high volume, high cost caseload worldwide and, as such, drive considerable interest in the development of improved treatments.  Nonetheless, the highest volume application in dermal repair in western civilization is plastic surgery.

Potential caseload is segmented by geography and skin repair type for the use of securement products, and is shown below:

ulcer-usa1

ulcer-europe

ulcer-row

Source:  MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S175, "Worldwide Surgical Sealants, Glues and Wound Closure, 2009-2013,"