A pressure ulcer is an injury that commonly develops in a patient who remains in one bodily position for an extended period of time. These wounds are extremely painful and can lead to permanent disabilities, and in extreme cases, amputation, organ failure, and death. A serious ulcer can cause extensive destruction of muscle, tendon and bone. The problem is not restricted to acute care either. More than half of all ulcers occur in long-term care situations.
Research and expert opinion are unanimous in stating that the overwhelming majority of facility-acquired pressure ulcers can and should be prevented. Simple procedures for preventing ulcers, presented in the EPUAP/NPUAP International Pressure Ulcer Guideline released in 2009, are clearly outlined.
The financial burden on healthcare providers is significant with the UK spending 4% of the annual national healthcare budget on prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers every year. The US is estimated to spend an approximated $18 billion every year on patients who suffer an ulcer. Nurses are considered to be at the forefront of preventative success and key to reducing both the cost of the wound to healthcare providers and improving the patient experience.
Experts are generally optimistic that the goal of eradicating needless pressure ulcers in all healthcare environments can be achieved through successful prevention strategies and comprehensive clinical guidelines.
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1. Sources: NHS (2010). NHS to adopt zero tolerance approach to pressure ulcers, National Patient Safety Agency, http://www.npsa.nhs.uk/corporate/news/nhs-to-adopt-zerotolerance-approach-to-pressure-ulcers/
Moore, Z. (2011). A randomized controlled clinical trial of repositioning, using the 30° tilt,- for the prevention of pressure ulcers, Journal of Clinical Nursing
Shoker, H. (2010). Taking the Pressure off NHS Resources: Walsall Hospital’s NHS Trust Pilots ArjoHuntleigh’s Pressure Ulcer Prevention and Outcome Assessment, ArjoHuntleigh Getinge Group