15. Treatment of Pressure Ulcers
Treatment of Pressure Ulcers
Clinical Guideline Number 15
AHCPR Publication No. 95-0652: December 1994
Foreword

The incidence of pressure ulcers is sufficiently high, especially among certain high-risk groups, to warrant concern among health care providers. These groups include elderly patients admitted to the hospital for femoral fracture (66-percent incidence) and critical care patients (33-percent incidence). In addition, the prevalence of pressure ulcers in skilled care facilities and nursing homes is reported to be as high as 23 percent. An extensive study of acute care facilities reported a prevalence of 9.2 percent, and in one study of quadriplegic patients the prevalence was 60 percent.

Because prevention of this debilitating condition is believed to be less costly than its treatment, the panel initially produced a guideline entitled, Pressure Ulcers in Adults: Prediction and Prevention. Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 3. Although it is certainly desirable to prevent pressure ulcers, individuals still enter the health care system with ulcers or develop ulcers during periods of increased vulnerability as their physical condition deteriorates. This guideline addresses the treatment of pressure ulcers. It is intended for clinicians who examine and treat persons with pressure ulcers, and the treatment recommendations focus on (1) assessment of the patient and pressure ulcer, (2) tissue load management, (3) ulcer care, (4) management of bacterial colonization and infection, (5) operative repair, and (6) education and quality improvement.

AHCPR appointed an external panel of multidisciplinary experts in this field to develop the guideline. To provide a scientific basis for this guideline, the panel conducted comprehensive literature searches, reviewed more than 45,000 abstracts, evaluated approximately 1,700 papers, and cited 333 references to support this guideline.

The panel solicited input from a broad array of organizations and individuals. Testimony was provided by interested parties at a public forum on April 9, 1992, in Washington, DC. A draft of the guideline was distributed to and analyzed by participants at a conference sponsored by the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society in March 1993. The Treatment of Pressure Ulcers Guideline Panel also invited peer review by individual experts, professional organizations, consumers, and Government regulatory agencies. Health care agencies conducted pilot reviews to evaluate the clinical applicability of the guideline. In all, more than 400 reviewers have critiqued various drafts of this guideline.

This first edition of Treatment of Pressure Ulcers will be periodically revised and updated as needed so that future editions reflect new research findings and experience with emerging technologies and innovative approaches. To this end, the panel welcomes comments and suggestions regarding the current guideline. Please send written comments to Director, Office of the Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care, AHCPR, 6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 310, Rockville, MD 20852.
Treatment of Pressure Ulcers Guideline Panel

Abstract

This Clinical Practice Guideline offers a comprehensive program for treating adults with pressure ulcers. The recommendations are intended for clinicians who examine and treat individuals in all health care settings.

The guideline was developed by a panel of experts and is based on the best available scientific evidence and clinical expertise. The recommended treatment program focuses on (1) assessment of the patient and pressure ulcer, (2) tissue load management, (3) ulcer care, (4) management of bacterial colonization and infection, (5) operative repair in selected patients with Stage III and IV pressure ulcers, and (6) education and quality improvement.

Accurate, ongoing assessment of the ulcer is essential. Of equal importance are the assessment and management of the individual’s overall health, including physical, psychosocial, and nutritional status. Pain should be assessed and managed. Management of tissue loads (i.e., pressure, friction, and shear), through vigilant use of positioning techniques and appropriately selected support surfaces, is critical.

Ulcer care includes (1) debridement of necrotic tissue and debris, (2) wound cleansing using saline and avoiding antiseptics, and (3) application of dressings that maintain a clean, moist environment while keeping the surrounding skin dry. Education and quality improvement are integral to an effective pressure ulcer treatment program.

This document is in the public domain and may be used and reprinted without special permission. AHCPR appreciates citation as to source, and the suggested format is provided below:

Bergstrom N, Bennett MA, Carlson CE, et al. Treatment of Pressure Ulcers. Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 15. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0652. December 1994

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