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Cost-effectiveness of negative-pressure wound therapy in adults with severe open fractures of the lower limb: evidence from the WOLLF randomized controlled trial

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The aim of this study was to estimate the cost-effectiveness of negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) in comparison with standard wound management after initial surgical wound debridement in adults with severe open fractures of the lower limb.

Patients and Methods

An economic evaluation was conducted from the perspective of the United Kingdom NHS and Personal Social Services, based on evidence from the 460 participants in the Wound Management of Open Lower Limb Fractures (WOLLF) trial. Economic outcomes were collected prospectively over the 12-month follow-up period using trial case report forms and participant-completed questionnaires. Bivariate regression of costs (given in £, 2014 to 2015 prices) and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), with multiple imputation of missing data, was conducted to estimate the incremental cost per QALY gained associated with NPWT dressings. Sensitivity and subgroup analyses were undertaken to assess the impacts of uncertainty and heterogeneity, respectively, surrounding aspects of the economic evaluation.


The base case analysis produced an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of £267 910 per QALY gained, reflecting higher costs on average (£678; 95% confidence interval (CI) -£1082 to £2438) and only marginally higher QALYS (0.002; 95% CI -0.054 to 0.059) in the NPWT group. The probability that NPWT is cost-effective in this patient population did not exceed 27% regardless of the value of the cost-effectiveness threshold. This result remained robust to several sensitivity and subgroup analyses.


This trial-based economic evaluation suggests that NPWT is unlikely to be a cost-effective strategy for improving outcomes in adult patients with severe open fractures of the lower limb.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:1392–1401.

Correspondence should be sent to S. Petrou; email:

See page 1401 for a full list of the WOLLF Trial Collaborators

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