Bed Sores – The Prevention Guide
The menacing threat of “bed sores” and their danger to a bedridden patients’ health is belied by its innocuous name. Medical professionals commonly refer to these dangerous, acquired wounds as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers or ischemic ulcers. Most at risk, are those in long-term care (nursing homes or hospitals), age 70+, who spend a significant of time in bed, lying down, hence the term – bedsore.1
The condition often results after capillary blood flow to certain areas of the body is restricted for long durations. This type of tissue damage only occurs when a patient is unable to change their body position due to a mobility, medical or neurological issue; capillary blood flow is interrupted and tissue damage eventually results.2 Under normal conditions, our bodies provide feedback to our brains that tell us we need to move or shift our position. We do, and normal blood flow returns to the small capillary vessels within our body tissue and skin.
The parts of the body most often impacted from bedsores include the heels, elbows and buttocks. The bony prominences of these skeletal protrusions direct considerably more body weight in these areas when lying down or in a seated position. When a person is unable to change their position or shift their weight, the result can be a dramatic and difficult-to-treat wound.
Armed with the right knowledge and products, potentially life-threatening pressure sores may be avoided all together.
How to Prevent Pressure Sores
First, always consult with a physician when a pressure sore is first noticed. Proper medical attention will ensure the best treatment alternatives. However, preventative measures can reduce the risk of dangerous pressure sores from occurring.
The concept is relatively simple. We want to reduce the direct pressure on any area of the body that could be in prolonged contact with another surface. To understand this concept, take your thumb and press it into your knee. The relatively small area of the tip of your thumb exerts a relatively large amount of pressure in a fairly small area. That pressure, which is focused around the area of the thumb, is high. If left for too long, the area of pressure will reduce blood circulation, eventually damaging the skin and turning into an open wound. Now, instead of using your thumb, place the palm of your hand over your knee and apply a little pressure. This time, the larger surface area of your hand distributes the force over a larger surface area. That larger surface area does not create the same pressure or damage in the way your thumb did. Key to preventing pressure sores is the distribution of force from high pressure areas on the body and ensuring uninterrupted blood flow through these areas.
Preventing Pressure Sores for the Bed-Bound
As the name suggests, bed sores afflict those unable to move in bed. A patient’s heels and elbows and buttocks are at risk. Fortunately, a number of products are available to help prevent pressure sores for the bed-bound.
Alternating Pressure Mattress
The best product for bed sore prevention is an alternating pressure pad or low air loss mattress. These devices use a pump and inflatable mattress overlay which systematically increases and decreases pressure though out the pad. These changes in pressure help relieve areas of high pressure contact between the body and the bed. While these systems can cost thousands of dollars, versions are available for as little as $49.
Good – $49
- Supports up to 250 pounds
- Easy to setup
- 1 ½” support thickness
Better – $682
- Supports up to 350 pounds
- 8” of pressure support
- Wide range of pressure variation
Best – $1,083
- Supports up to 450 pounds
- 8” of pressure support
- Performance pump produces constant airflow
Heel & Elbow – Simple Alternatives
Other, less sophisticated products are available to help protect the skin from breakdown due to pressure. These products include heel and elbow protective pads that are worn around the patient’s heel or elbow, held in place with some kind of strapping or elastic. Made from sheepskin, synthetic material or even “ROHO dry flotation” (the same pressure relieving air bubble product used in ROHO wheelchair cushions),
- Made from ROHO dry flotation
- Lightweight and easy-to-clean
- Cell pressure is adjustable
- Corefill polyester fiber
- Protects and warms the foot
- Machine washable
- Natural leather and wool
- Absorbs more moisture
- Machine washable
The danger of bed sores is avoidable. Under most conditions, a low air loss or alternating pressure mattress is the ideal approach in preventing the development of bed sores. At minimum, simple and inexpensive products like heel and elbow protective cushions are a great first step.
AllegroMedical.com has a variety of solutions to help you prevent pressure sores and to keep your patient or loved one comfortable.
For more than 15 years, AllegroMedical.com has been the leading online source of home health and wellness products. Rely on Allegro Medical for all of your health supplies.
1) Fogerty M, Guy J, Barbul A, et al. African Americans show increased risk for pressure ulcers: A retrospective analysis of acute care hospitals in America. Wound Repair Regen. Aug 11 2009;[Medline].
2) Schweinberger MH, Roukis TS. Effectiveness of Instituting a Specific Bed Protocol in Reducing Complications Associated with Bed Rest. J Foot Ankle Surg. Apr 1 2010;[Medline].