Hospitals Put on the Pressure

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Infections aren't the only thing you can acquire in the hospital. Pressure ulcers (bed sores) may be equally common, according to a study reported in the Sept. 28, 1998, Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers observed 2,373 patients without pressure ulcers who entered a Swiss teaching hospital. During the course of their stay, 10.3 percent of the patients developed pressure ulcers. Not surprisingly, those most at risk of developing ulcers were those who were older and those who had the lowest Norton Pressure Ulcer Prediction scores, which are based on physical and mental condition, activity and mobility levels and incontinence.

Pressure ulcers develop from continuous pressure on the skin that covers bony areas such as the hips and shoulders. The pressure impedes blood flow and can cause tissue to die. Prevention of these sores, which can be life-threatening if they become infected, is a cardinal aspect of nursing care. Prevention methods are relatively simple. They include repositioning immobile patients every two hours, keeping the skin and bed linen dry, inspecting pressure areas regularly for signs of redness, daily skin care and the use of preventive devices such as air mattresses, flotation mattresses, pads and cushions.

But the researchers found that only 18.7 percent of the patients in their study were treated with preventive, pressure-reducing devices, a percentage they termed "not optimal."

So if you or a loved one is in the hospital, advocate for care and devices that prevent pressure ulcers and remind nurses to monitor the situation.

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