Preventing Pressure Ulcers
Despite the many advances made in medicine over the years, an issue that continues to challenge health professionals is the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.
What is a pressure ulcer?
Sometimes referred to as a "bed sore," a pressure ulcer is a painful skin sore that develops when a person stays in one position for too long without moving or shifting weight. The constant pressure against the skin reduces the blood flow to that area, causing the surrounding tissue to die and the sore to appear.
Pressure ulcers tend to develop in people who cannot move their body freely due to injury, extended illness, impaired mobility or end-of-life issues. Often slow to heal, these sores can lead to hospitalization and a diminished quality of life.
How does Sutter Health protect patients?
In 2003, Sutter Health implemented an aggressive strategy to reduce the number of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. The goal is to prevent these skin sores in all patients under the care of Sutter Health hospitals throughout Northern California.
Clinical experts and leaders from around the Sutter Health network came together to identify procedures and products to lessen the risk of patients developing a pressure ulcer during hospitalization. The results of the clinicians’ work included:
- Improved patient care practices that identify patient risk and promote early recognition and treatment of pressure ulcers
- Installation of pressure-relieving mattresses and other support surfaces for all “at-risk” patients. This includes special pressure-relieving operating tables, gurneys, and beds in the emergency departments and operating rooms for patient comfort and safety.
How are we doing?
Over the last six years, the rate of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers in patients receiving treatment throughout the Sutter Health network has dropped significantly—from 12 percent to 2.8 percent.* We continue to monitor our caregiving practices to identify areas for improvement and to keep our clinicians informed of the most effective ways to prevent hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.
*As of June 30, 2009. Prevalence rate includes even mild ulcers.