Written by

Saima Mazhar - Partner, Head of Medical Negligence

Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, are injuries that are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin; pressure sores can affect the skin and the underlying tissue. Pressure sores can be extremely painful for patients and research shows that 95% of pressure sores are avoidable. In this article, we will be discussing how pressure sores are caused and how to prevent bed sores.

 

What are pressure sores? 

According to NHS inform, pressure sores “are an injury that breaks down the skin and underlying tissue. They are caused when an area of skin is placed under pressure.” Pressure sores can range in severity and some pressure sores can cause patients extreme pain and may even require surgery. 

 

Causes of pressure sores 

Pressure sores are caused by sustained pressure and they can affect any part of the body but they are most common on the bony parts of the body, such as the elbows and hips. Pressure sores occur if you are unable to move around and you are staying in one position for a sustained period of time. People who are unable to move around tend to put pressure on the same areas of their body for a long time and this puts you at risk of developing pressure sores. For example if you are on bed rest for a long period of time or if you are in a wheelchair, you are at risk of getting pressure sores. 

 

Preventing pressure sores 

If you are in a hospital or a care home, your care team should discuss the best way to prevent pressure sores and this will be individual to all patients. According to the NICE guidelines, all caregivers should develop and document an individual care plan for all patients that have a high risk of developing pressure sores. In this care plan, there are certain things that should be taken into account including: 

  • A risk assessment outcome 
  • The need for any additional pressure relief that may be needed 
  • The patient’s mobility and if they have the ability to reposition themselves  
  • Any other comorbidities that the patients may have
  • The patient’s preference 

It is important that your care providers discuss the best way to prevent pressure sores but there is also some general advice about how you can prevent pressure sores:

 

Changing position

One of the most effective ways to prevent pressure sores is to make regular changes to your position so that you are not putting pressure on the same areas for a prolonged amount of time, this can help to prevent pressure sores but can also avoid putting pressure on pressure sores if you already have them, by changing position regularly, you will be able to give the wound the best chance of healing. 

According to NHS inform, as a general rule, any individuals that use wheelchairs should change their position at least once every 15 to 30 minutes. People who are on bed rest should change their position at least once every 2 hours. This will give individuals the best chance to heal any existing pressure sores and will also help to prevent getting any new pressure sores.  

 

Checking your skin for any signs of pressure sores 

If you know that you are at a higher risk of developing pressure sores, it is important that you check your skin every day for any signs of pressure sores, such as discoloured areas of skin. If you believe that you are starting to develop a pressure sore, it is important that you inform your care team or contact your GP so that you can get treatment straight away and so that it doesn’t become worse. 

 

Nutrition 

Nutrition is an extremely important aspect of preventing pressure sores, eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains an adequate amount of protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals, this can help to prevent any sort of skin damage, including pressure sores. Eating a well balanced diet can also help to speed up the healing process if you have an existing pressure sore. If you are at high risk of developing pressure sores, you may be referred to a dietitian so that a well balanced dietary plan can be drawn up for you. 

 

Quit smoking 

Giving up smoking is another one of the most effective ways to prevent pressure sores. If you are a smoker, it will reduce the levels of oxygen in your blood and it will also weaken your immune system and this will put you at an increased risk of developing pressure sores. 

 

Complications of pressure sores

There are different grades of pressure sores and even with the best medical care, complications may arise from higher grade pressure sores and they may occasionally be life-threatening for patients. The complications that may arise from pressure sores include:

  • Cellulitis – when you develop pressure sores, infection can spread from the site of the pressure sore to a deeper layer of the skin, this infection is called cellulitis and it can cause patients to experience pain, redness and swelling of the skin. If you develop cellulitis, you will need to be treated with antibiotics. 
  • Bone and joint infection – if patients develop infections from their pressure sores, the infection can also spread into the underlying joints and bones, antibiotics will be provided to patients that have bone and joint infections from pressure sores and in the most serious case, surgery may be required in order to remove the infection. 
  • Blood poisoning – if a patient who has a weak immune system develops pressure sores and they become infected, there is a risk that the infection can spread into their blood and other organs, this is known as blood poisoning. Blood poisoning can be extremely serious and can cause damage to multiple organs and potentially lead to septic shock which can be fatal for patients. Blood poisoning will require emergency treatment for patients. 
  • Necrotising fasciitis – this is most commonly known as “flesh eating” bacteria and this can occur when a pressure sore becomes infected with a particular type of bacteria. If a patient develops this type of infection, emergency treatment will be required. 

Pressure sores can be extremely painful for patients and some can even be life threatening, it is therefore important that all necessary steps are taken to try and ensure patients do not develop pressure sores. 

 

Pressure sore claims

“Pressure ulcers (PUs) prevention remains a significant challenge for nurses, and its incidence is considered an indicator of poor quality of care.” Pressure sores can be painful for patients and they are slow to heal, in the worst case, some pressure sores can even lead to patients needing surgery. Knowing that 95% of pressure sores could have been avoided can be a devastating thought and if you have had a pressure sore that is due to medical negligence and it could have been avoided, you may be able to claim for compensation.  

At Patient Claim Line, we work on a no win no fee basis and if you believe you have a pressure sore claim, get in touch with one of our expert solicitors today. We will be able to guide you through your claims process and get you the compensation that you deserve.

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