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Br J Surg. 1996 Feb;83(2):255-8.

The prevalence of chronic lower-limb ulceration has been underestimated: results of a validated population questionnaire.

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Department of Surgery, Kärnsjukhuset, Skövde, Sweden.


A validated population questionnaire was used to survey 12,000 randomly selected inhabitants, aged 50-89 years, in two defined regions of Sweden. The sample included 7 per cent of the total population in the age interval. Overall response rate was 91 per cent. Open ulcers were reported by 306 subjects and 143 (47 per cent) agreed to be examined. The false-positive response rate was high (43 per cent). The observed point prevalence of open leg ulcers was 0.63 (95 per cent confidence interval 0.54-0.72) per cent of the total population. The overall prevalence of leg ulcer history (open plus healed) in the population was estimated to be around 2 per cent and the ratio of open: previous ulcers was 1:2. This study shows a point prevalence more than double that expected, indicating a high rate of self treatment. Assessments of leg ulcer prevalence through the health care system, without knowledge of the rate of self care, measure only the workload of health care professionals. The problem of leg ulcers has generally been underestimated.

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