Bedsores – also called pressure sores, pressure injuries or decubitus ulcers – are one of the biggest challenges for hospitals. Bedsores are a preventable injury, yet sadly, they affect more than 2.5 million people each year. Of those, around 60,000 people die each year due to the wound or complications.
Not only are bedsores considered preventable, but when they are diagnosed in a timely manner, they are also treatable. With this being the case, it is difficult to imagine why so many people develop these wounds, much less die as a result.
The sad reality is that many bedsores are the result of negligence. Read on to learn more about what hospitals should do to prevent bedsores.
How Do Hospitals Prevent Bedsores?
Hospitals each have a set of guidelines for preventing bedsores. These guidelines include prevention methods such as:
- Repositioning the patient every two hours
- Conducting daily skin inspections
- Ensuring good skin hygiene
- Ensuring good nutrition and hydration
- Mobilizing the patient as soon as possible
Preventing bedsores in hospitals is the responsibility of the entire healthcare system, not just nurses. Healthcare systems must optimize overall care and increase awareness of bedsores. In addition to general guidelines, the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) provides strategies called “Pressure Injury Prevention Points,” which include:
- Risk Assessment
- Skin Care
- Positioning and Mobilization
- Monitoring, Training and Leadership Support
These strategies to prevent bedsores require a multidisciplinary approach to care. Not only should hospitals focus on overall care and general guidelines for all patients, but they should also recognize and address individual patient factors that put them at risk.
Bedsores develop when the patient sits or lays down in the same position for an extended period of time. Over time, pressure and friction cause the skin in certain areas of the body to become vulnerable. Prolonged pressure on one area of the body can decrease circulation and cut off blood supply. Some doctors believe that bedsores can develop in as little as two to three hours of decreased circulation.
But it is not only chairs and mattresses that can cause a bedsore to develop. Patients are also vulnerable if they are on oxygen, have tubes or are exposed to medical equipment. Hospital staff must be diligent in inspecting patient skin on a daily basis. This includes the skin behind the ears, on the hands and on the back.
Recognizing Patients Most at Risk
One of the best ways to prevent bedsores is to recognize the patients who are most at risk. This includes patients:
- Who have limited mobility
- Who are sedated
- With spinal cord injuries
- With conditions like diabetes or neuropathy
- Who cannot move certain parts of their body
- Who have thin skin
- With poor circulation due to vascular diseases
- With reduced mental awareness
- Who have urinary or fecal incontinence
Patients who are identified as high risk should be monitored extremely closely for signs of a developing bedsore. Any sign of skin or tissue breakdown should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately.
How Does Negligence Lead to Bedsores?
The most common cause of a bedsore developing is the patient being in the same position for a long period of time. Most often, this occurs in hospitals or nursing homes. Negligence on the part of hospital staff or caregivers can contribute to bedsores in several ways. Hospital staff or caregivers cause bedsores when they:
- Do not properly assess the patient
- Do not move or reposition the patient regularly
- Fail to recognize a developing wound
- Ignore signs or symptoms of a bedsore
- Fail to provide proper nutrition and hydration
- Do not keep the patient’s skin clean and dry
Any of these actions, or lack thereof, could be indicative of medical negligence. Anyone who experiences these types of medical negligence should contact a Houston pressure ulcer attorney to find out if they have an actionable claim.
Complications of Bedsores
Without early detection and treatment, bedsores can lead to complications that are serious, and sometimes life-threatening. These wounds are incredibly painful, and can take a long time to heal, even with proper treatment. Some of the more common complications of bedsores include:
- Cellulitis – A bacterial infection of the skin. Cellulitis may extend from the surface of the skin to the deeper layers underneath. Without quick treatment, cellulitis can lead to septicemia, or blood poisoning. It can also spread to other parts of the body.
- Bone or joint infections – If an ulcer spreads to the tissue surrounding the joints or bones, the cartilage and tissue may become infected. This can result in a decrease in mobility and function.
- Sepsis – Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. If bacteria enters the bedsore, it can quickly infect tissues, which can lead the body to develop sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening response to infection that can cause shock and organ damage.
- Death – Bedsores can escalate to the point where the infection and complications are so severe that they result in death.
These are only a few examples of the possible complications of bedsores. The reality is that these preventable injuries can impact various parts of the body and can have a devastating impact on the patient’s health and life.
What to Do About Hospital Bedsores
Has someone you love developed a bedsore while in a hospital? If so, it is only natural that you are concerned about the level of care your loved one has received. If you are worried that your loved one may be the victim of medical negligence, contact Brown, Christie & Green.
Our medical malpractice attorney can help you sort through your loved one’s situation and determine if he or she has been provided the appropriate level of care. If not, we can advise you of your loved one’s legal rights and any options you may have to pursue legal action against the negligent party or parties.
Request a free consultation to learn more. You can request your consultation by calling us at 1-800-600-4210. You can also reach us via the online contact form located on our website.