Pressure ulcers are areas of damage to the skin and underlying tissue. They are also known as pressure sores or bed sores. If care is not taken, pressure ulcers can be serious. They can damage not just the skin but also the fatty tissue beneath the skin. Pressure ulcers may cause pain, or lead to a longer stay in hospital. They can become infected, sometimes causing blood poisoning or bone infections. In severe cases, the underlying muscle or bone may be destroyed. In extreme cases pressure ulcers can become life threatening.
Pressure ulcers are caused by a combination of:
Usually, people can relieve the effects of pressure, friction or shearing by moving around, changing position and adjusting clothing and bedding. If you are unable to do this you may be at increased risk of developing pressure ulcers.
You may be at risk of developing pressure ulcers for a number of reasons, including:
To assess your risk of developing pressure ulcers, a member of the health care team looking after you will examine you and ask you certain questions. This is called a 'risk assessment'.
You (and your carer if appropriate) should be fully informed about your care and be involved in decisions about your care. The health care staff who look after you should respect and take into account your knowledge and experience, especially if you have been at risk of pressure ulcers for a long time.
The care and advice you should expect to receive from health care staff to prevent pressure ulcers should include:
Here at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, we have multiple innovations to help prevent pressure ulcers occurring. These include:
Our Tissue Viability Team can be contacted by telephone on (01553) 612821.
Much of the information contained on this page has been adapted from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) Pressure Ulcer Guidelines 2005.