legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Pressure Sores are Needlessly Killing Nursing Home & Hospital Patients
Pressure sores (commonly known as bedsores) usually develop in vulnerable patients who are disabled, elderly, or overweight. While most of these cases are treatable and usually just lead to pain, they can complicate and lead to other, deadlier outcomes. The deaths of these patients are easily preventable though proper prevention and treatment methods.
Rise of Pressure Sore Deaths
The number of people dying from pressure sores is on the rise. For instance, according to a study performed by the Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom, more than 27,000 hospitalized people died from infected bedsores or wounds, which is an increase of 50% within the last decade. The following statistics show the cause of death among the related casualties:
- Around 218 casualties occurred because of the pressure sores themselves.
- Meanwhile, 2,121 people died from blood poisoning caused by infected wounds.
- Around 25,343 patients died from other conditions, but still suffered from pressure sores.
Why do Pressure Sores Kill?
Pressure sores by themselves are not usually deadly. Most of the time, a sore creates pain, and it is usually treatable and controlled. A bedsore is still a wound, however, and like all wounds, infection can easily occur. Some of the most common complications related to a pressure sore include:
- Cellulitis. Cellulitis is potentially dangerous bacterial infection. This infection affects the skin and soft tissues and causes warmth and swelling of the area. Cellulitis can spread and infect the rest of the limb, as well as spread to the deep layer of the tissue in a condition called necrotizing fasciitis.
- Bone and Joint Infections. The infections introduced by a pressure sore can either affect and damage the joints (septic arthritis) or the bones (osteomyelitis).
- Cancer. If the wound takes too long to heal, the squamous skin cells trying to close the wound can become cancerous and multiply in excess. An example of this cancer is Marjolin’s ulcers.
- Sepsis. The rarest of pressure-sore-related complications, but also the deadliest. Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to an infection, which affects organs, destroys tissue, and leads to death.
Preventing Pressure Sores
While pressure sores do not seem overtly grave at first, they can escalate if left untreated. Nursing homes and hospitals can prevent future tragedy by using different methods to improve the patient’s blood flow to the skin and reduce the chances of pressure sores. The following are tactics caregivers can use to prevent the condition:
- Repositioning the patient or shifting their weight every 15 minutes to prevent pressure from building up
- Using specialty equipment such as therapeutic mattresses and wheelchair cushions to relieve pressure
- Keeping the patient’s skin clean and dry to prevent the vulnerability that leads to the wounds
- Changing the patient’s clothing and bedding to keep the skin healthy and clean
- Keeping the patient on a healthy diet to ensure the skin has nutrients and remains strong
Identifying Pressure Sores
If a possible pressure sore appears, identifying it and preparing treatment is essential in mitigating the damage. Pressure sores usually manifest on bony parts of a patient’s body. A possible bedsore has the following symptoms:
- Red, irritated area
- Pus draining from the spot
- Hot or cold to the touch
The intensity of the pressure sore also determines the complications it can cause and the correct treatment for the condition. Pressure sores occur in four stages:
- Stage I. A painful spot develops on the skin with redness, but is usually not a wound.
- Stage II. The skin breaks open and resembles a blister, a scrape, or a shallow crater.
- Stage III. The sore extends beneath the skin, forming a crater where fat is visible.
- Stage IV. The injury is deep, reaching into muscle and bone, causing tissue and joint damage.
Treating Pressure Sores
Once caregivers identify a pressure sore, proper treatment begins. These treatments vary depending on the stage and intensity of the wound. The treatment methods include:
- Repositioning and use of special soft equipment to continue to relieve pressure
- Cleaning and dressing the wound to protect it and promote healing
- Removing the damaged, dead, or infected tissue
- Using drugs to relieve pain or fight infection
- Keeping the patient on a healthy diet to encourage fast healing
In severe cases of pressure sores, usually in stages III and IV, doctors recommend surgery methods such as flap reconstruction.
Taking Necessary Legal Action
Bedsores are already unacceptable even when they are in the early stages. Professional care should prevent those wounds from emerging in the first place. Further neglect allows the pressure sore to become infected and damage the patient’s body, sometimes leading to death.
If you suspect you or your loved one developed pressure sores from nursing home or hospital neglect, or if their neglect worsened the condition, you are entitled to take legal action against the health facility. Contact the attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center LLC for a free legal consultation and discussion of the next steps to take.