An estimated 1 in 20 people who are admitted into a hospital with a sudden illness will develop a pressure sore. If you or a loved one has suffered from pressure sores in hospital or in a care home, our Medical Negligence Solicitors offer free legal advice. We may be able to deal with your claim for compensation on a No Win, No Fee basis, ask us for details.
What are Pressure Sores?
Pressure sores are injuries that break down skin and the underlying soft tissue. They generally develop in one of two ways:
- A large amount of pressure being applied to a certain area of skin over a short time
- A small amount of pressure being applied over a longer period of time
The additional pressure to the skin interrupts the flow of blood in that area, leading to it breaking down and allowing an ulcer to form. Pressure sores can affect any area of the body which can be put under pressure, but commonly occur on bony parts of the body such as elbows, hips, the base of the spine and even the heels.
Clinicians grade pressure sores between 1 and 4, depending on the severity of the sore.
A Stage 1 pressure sore is the mildest stage and usually only affects the upper layer of the skin. This type of pressure sore will look like a red patch, which may feel slightly different to the surrounding skin, i.e. hotter or colder.
A Stage 2 pressure sore occurs when the stage 1 sore goes below the surface of your skin. At this stage, the sore will either have broken the skin, leaving an open wound or look like a blister.
If left untreated at the previous stage, this will develop into a stage 3 pressure sore, which has broken through the second layer of skin and into the fat tissue. At this point, the sore will look like a crater and may show signs of infection, such as a bad odour or red edges.
A stage 4 pressure sore is the most severe form of pressure sore and can cause long term health issues. A pressure sore at this stage has broken the skin, fat tissue and muscle down and will be a deep wound. In some cases, the sore may even penetrate down to the bone.
A stage 3 or 4 pressure sore usually develop very quickly. Therefore, it’s important that these are diagnosed and treated before they reach these stages.
Who Usually Gets Pressure Sores?
Pressure sores commonly occur in people with mobility difficulties, elderly people and people who have an underlying health condition which affects blood flow. For these reasons, the majority of people who develop a pressure sore will likely be resident in either a care home or a hospital.
How Can Pressure Sores be Prevented?
When you’re admitted to a hospital or care home, the healthcare team should carry out a risk assessment to establish your risk developing a pressure sore. If they determine that you’re at risk of developing a sore, an appropriate care plan should be put in place to ensure that you’re monitored for symptoms of pressure sores and that preventative measures are put into place. These include:
This is potentially the best way of preventing a pressure sore from developing as it reduces and relieves pressure on areas prone to developing pressure sores. Clinical guidelines from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) state that an adult should be encouraged to change their position at least every 6 hours, or every 4 hours if you’re deemed to be at high risk of developing a sore. Your healthcare team should ensure that you change your position frequently and assist if you’re unable to move yourself.
Another effective way of preventing pressure sores is the use of “pressure redistributing equipment”. These are items, such as mattresses or an overlay, which either removes pressure regularly from different parts of the body or spreads out the pressure to help prevent pressure sores developing. These are especially useful if you are a bed-bound patient or someone with mobility issues which can make repositioning difficult. Care homes and hospitals have access to this equipment, and so if you’re deemed to be at high risk of pressure sores when you’re admitted, then you should be given one of these mattresses in order to prevent pressure sores.
Pressure Sores are Preventable
It’s clear that pressure sores can be prevented in care homes and hospitals. A care plan for each individual at high risk of developing pressure sores should therefore be put in place at the earliest opportunity – and tailored to their specific circumstances.
If you’re at high risk, then your healthcare team should ensure that you’re given either a pressure relieving mattress or are repositioned regularly. The hospital or care home staff should also monitor your skin frequently for signs of a pressure sore developing in order to treat this at the earliest opportunity.
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