Author: Shannon Pearce, DNP & Michelle Peck, ANP
Pressure ulcers are regions of localized damage to the skin and underlying tissues that usually develop over bony prominences such as the sacrum or heels.
Pressure ulcers are often overlooked by providers until significant ischemia and tissue death have occurred.
Most pressure ulcers begin in hospitals and account for the largest amount of money in nursing home legal settlements.
Though a pressure ulcer may progress from a stage I to a stage IV or an unstageable ulcer, a stage IV can never become a III, II, or I (even after healed).
Pressure ulcers are often mismanaged, despite availability of best practices and recommended standards of care.
Avoid using donut-type devices and sheepskin.
Reposition bed-bound persons every 2 hours.
Position chair-bound persons every hour.
Position head of bed at or below 30° whenever possible.
Derived from the Guidelines of the 2009 National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP). When assessing a patient's wounds, a complete evaluation includes:
Use validated assessment tools for such as Braden Scale, Norton Scale, or Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing (PUSH).
Stageable Pressure Ulcers
Stage I: Intact skin with non-blanchable redness of a localized area usually over a bony prominence. Darkly pigmented skin may not have visible blanching; its color may differ from the surrounding area.
Stage II: Partial thickness loss of dermis presenting as a shallow open ulcer with a red or pink wound bed, without slough. May also present as an intact or open/ruptured serum-filled blister.
Stage III: Full thickness tissue loss. Subcutaneous fat may be visible but bone, tendon or muscles are not exposed. Slough may be present but does not obscure the depth of tissue loss. May include undermining and tunneling.
Stage IV: Full thickness tissue loss with exposed bone, tendon or muscle. Slough or eschar may be present on some parts of the wound bed. Often includes undermining and tunneling.
Unstageable Pressure Ulcers
Eschar: Named originally from the Greek word eschara (scab). Eschar is a slough/dead tissue that is cast off from the surface of the skin. Eschar development occurs with burns, pressure ulcers necrotizing and other types of wounds.
Deep tissue injury (DTI): Purple or maroon localized area of discolored intact skin or blood-filled blister due to damage of underlying soft tissue from pressure and/or shear.
The management of pressure ulcers requires an interprofessional team approach.The basic components of wound management include:
Prevention begins by identifying risk factors. Always perform a complete history and physical. Those at highest risk include patients with immobility and patients with other individual risk factors such as poor nutritional status, decreased arterial pressure. Perform a head to toe skin check, ask about bowel & bladder problems, and ensure nutritional interventions are consistent with goals of care.
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National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (200). Pressure Ulcer Assessment Tool. Retrieved from http://www.npuap.org/resources/educational-and-clinical-resources/
National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (2007). Pressure Ulcer Prevention Points. Retrieved from http://www.npuap.org/resources/educational-and-clinical-resources/
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