We all know that the development of a bed sore during an admission to a medical center is indeed problematic for the patient from both a medical and humanistic perspective. But until recently, there was precious little data regarding the true impact of a pressure sore on the prognosis of a patient.
Study Regarding Hospital Pressure Sores
Now, a recent medical study conducted by researchers at UCLA School of Nursing, conclusively establishes what many families have learned first hand– that pressure sores acquired during a hospitalization are indeed fatal. Digging through data on 51,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized in the United States in 2006-2007, the data suggests that those who developed pressure ulcers during a hospitalization were more likely than their peer: have longer hospital stays, be readmitted to hospitals and die during their admission.
While all hospital patients are theoretically at risk for developing pressure ulcers, factors which heightened the individual’s risk for developing the wounds include: congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, obesity and diabetes. According to the studies lead investigator and dead of the UCLA School of Nursing, Dr. Courtney Lyder, “[w]hen individuals enter the hospital with risk conditions that we’ve identified, it should send up an immediate warning signal that appropriate steps should be taken to minimize the chance of pressure ulcers occurring.”
Applying Data From Study To Current Hospital Patients
It’s easy to scoff off data presented in studies simply by looking for ways which the study doesn’t apply to your particular circumstance. However, all families may wish to heed an extra dose of concern for their loved ones during scheduled and unexpected hospitalizations as statistics from the study reveal than an alarming 4.5% of tracked patients will develop a pressure ulcer during their admission. Similarly, a disturbing 16.7% of patients who entered the which an existing bed sore developed another wound during their hospital admission.
Considering the large portions of the population who will likely spend some time in a hospital (or nursing home) over the coming months, it is important for families to remain vigilant in terms of the identification— and prevention of pressure sores. In addition to regularly looking at patients skin integrity, families need to be aware that basic preventative steps can prevent their loved one from developing a wound in the first place. Common preventative measures include:
- Regularly changing the position of patients
- Keep loved ones well nourished and properly hydrated
- Encourage patients to remain active and get out of bed
- Keep the skin clean and dry
- Notify staff at the early indications of a pressure sore
An Unacceptable Medical Error
The development of a pressure sore during a hospitalization is indeed the consequence of inferior medical care on the part of the facility. Hospital acquired pressure sores are now on the Government’s “Never Event” list which prevents facilities from seeking reimbursement for medical treatment related to the development of a pressure sore during a hospitalization. As a medical malpractice lawyer who regularly prosecutes these cases, I feel that this categorization is a good first step, but facilities still have a long way to to before the incidence of these problems gets reduced.