We have numerous cases where a resident suffered horrible painful pressure ulcers because of the lack of preventative treatment.  The nursing homes always claim that the pressure ulcers were "unavoidable" due to the age of the resident.  A new comprehensive study disproves that claim.

This article discusses the purpose and success of preventing pressure ulcers from forming when nursing homes provide preventative care.

The Pressure Ulcer Collaborative project had been aiming for a 25 percent reduction in new occurrences of bedsores by encouraging health workers to use proven strategies to prevent skin deterioration.  Instead, the 150 hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies participating reduced new bedsores on average by just over 70 percent between September 2005 and May 2007.

Bedsores, technically known as pressure ulcers, are painful, occasionally deadly skin lesions caused by unrelieved pressure  that can cause infection and destroy tissue, muscle and bone if not properly treated.  They also can trigger depression, affect a patient’s self-image and complicate treatment.

At the beginning of the New Jersey project, 18 percent of newly admitted patients developed a bedsore while receiving care. By the end, the rate had been cut to 5 percent of new patients, Holmes said.

Holmes said the preventive steps started with a prompt evaluation of each new patient, with every square inch of their skin examined and their risk of developing bedsores determined based on a standardized scale.

Hospitals then had to follow strategies to prevent development of bedsores. Options included shifting the patient to a new position every two hours, use of heel cushions and other padding for vulnerable pressure points, even use of special air mattresses that alternately inflate and deflate different areas, spreading pressure around.

Patients not eating or drinking enough water _ a common problem with older patients _ got a nutritional consultation because inadequate caloric intake or protein stores, as well as dehydration, can lead to skin tearing and breaking down.  Frequent follow-up examinations of the skin also were required, along with new ones for patients suddenly bedridden, as after surgery.

 

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

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Pressure Ulcers

Also referred to as decubitus ulcers or bed sores, these are lesions caused by unrelieved pressure resulting in damage to underlying tissue. Pressure ulcers usually occur over a bony prominence such as the sacrum or heel, and are staged to classify the degree of tissue damage1. The risk for pressure ulcer development is increased for the person who is immobile and confined to a bed or chair. Pressure ulcers are classified into four categories, depending upon their severity, and are generally caused by unrelieved pressure on the bodies soft tissue.

In addition to pressure, the forces of friction and shear may contribute to wound development in the patient who is malnourished, incontinent, insensate and/or cognitively impaired. Assessment tools, such as the Norton2 or Braden3 tools, assist the clinician to identify patient factors that increase the risk for pressure ulcer development. Appropriate interventions and resources can then be targeted to intervene and reduce patient risks of pressure ulcer development or recurrence.

1. European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel. Pressure Ulcer Treatment Guidelines
2. Norton, D., McLaren, R., Exton-Smith, A.N. (1962) An investigation of geriatric nursing problems in hospital. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone
3. Bergstrom N., Braden, B. Lazuzza, A. (1987) The Braden scale for predicting pressure sore risk. Nurs Res; 36:4, 205-210

Information provided with support from the Wound Healing Research Unit, Cardiff