Preventing painful pressure injuries

Woman-in-Hospital_ThinkstockPhotos-159030494Pressure injuries, also known as pressure sores or bed sores, are something most of us never think about, but they can occur and when they do, they are very painful and can lengthen your stay in hospital.

Pressure injuries are localised areas of damage to the skin or underlying tissue, caused by unrelieved pressure or friction that occurs when we are immobile for extended periods of time. In most cases, they are preventable. Wound Nurse Kate Brereton from St John of God Murdoch Hospital says anyone can be at risk of a pressure injury in certain circumstances, although there are those who are more at risk than others. “The elderly are more prone to pressure injuries as their skin is often fragile and becomes thinner with aging,” Ms Brereton says. “However, they are something we all need to be vigilant about as they can occur in the young patients too.”

Pressure injuries are also associated with weight loss, poor nutrition and dehydration as we need enough fluids, calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in our daily diet to maintain healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of tissues.” Although a wound caused by bed rest can sound insignificant in relation to major surgery or illness, the impact of pressure injuries on the quality of life and comfort of patients is not to be underestimated.

“Pressure injuries increase a patient’s length of stay in hospital and subsequently, the cost of health care. Patients may need ongoing community nursing post discharge to manage a pressure injury wound while it is healing,” Ms Brereton says. “Patients sometimes find a pressure injury to be more painful and more inconvenient than the surgery or illness itself.”

If you are in hospital and have limited immobility, make sure your caregiver is checking your skin daily. If you have pain over a bony prominence especially sacrum, buttocks or heels, or are concerned about any abnormalities on your skin, please speak with your caregiver.

The diagrams below show the areas of the body most at risk:

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