Preventing an Infection in a Bed Sore

By Nursing Home Law Center

Preventing Infection

Out of all the complications in dealing with a bedsore, a serious infection can become life threatening. An infected bedsore, also referred to as a pressure ulcer, pressure sore and decubitus ulcer, often begins as a painful, reddened area, eventually turning purple. Left unattended or without proper treatment, the skin can easily break open, becoming infected. Within days, the sore can become extremely deep and extend down into bone and muscle, causing permanent damage.

Approximately one million individuals in the U.S. develop bedsores each year, with the highest percentage occurring in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and group homes. Bedsores are common in elderly patients, with most ulcers occurring in individuals 70 years and older. In addition, those with a neurological impairment including paralysis or spinal injury are at high risk for developing a bedsore, due to their lack of mobility. Bedsores are known to be a leading cause of death in about one in 12 paraplegics.

The danger of developing an infected bedsore is that it can lead to sepsis, where bacteria enters the bloodstream through the patient’s broken skin, before spreading throughout the entire body. Once in the blood, the sepsis can progress rapidly causing organ failure. In addition, an infected decubitus ulcer can spread the bacteria deep into the bones and joints damaging tissue and cartilage. Without treatment, the infected bone (osteomyelitis) can potentially reduce limb and joint function.

Areas of Most Concern

Pressure sores tend to develop on bony prominences of the body, where little fat is present. These areas can include:

  • Back of the Head
  • Ankles
  • Heels
  • Hips
  • Lower Back
  • Knees
  • Spine
  • Shoulder Blades
  • Tailbone

Even though a leading factor of pressure sore development involves impaired mobility, there is an increased potential of developing sores by conditions and illnesses that weaken soft tissue and muscle.

A bedsore usually appears when blood flow circulation is compromised, restricting the delivery of oxygen necessary to maintain healthy body tissue. When damaged by lack of oxygen, the skin becomes thinner and significantly more vulnerable to breaking down, causing a subsequent infection. Typical conditions that often lead to an increased potential of developing bedsores involving infection includes:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart issues
  • Incontinence (the inability to control the bowel or bladder)
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), known to restrict blood flow
  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Poor blood flow circulation
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Prolonged bed rest, especially when unsanitary conditions exist from wrinkled or wet sheets

Steps to Prevent Infected Bedsores

Nursing homes, medical facilities, group homes, assisted-living facilities and hospitals should develop and implement a prevention program to minimize the potential development of bedsores. A program to minimize pressure sore development should involve:

  • Appropriate Bedding/Seating – Facilities that utilize pressure distributing mattresses and other equipment to provide good support have lower incident rates of bedsore development in their patients.

  • Routine Repositioning – Pressure can be relieved on the body in crucial areas by routinely repositioning the patient. This will allow adequate blood flow to supply the skin with necessary oxygen levels. Individuals at greater risk of developing sores need to be repositioned every 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Proven Handling Techniques – It is necessary to reduce the amount of sheer and friction on the skin to minimize the potential of pressure sore development. Appropriate handling techniques and specialize equipment should be utilized including hoists for lifting and slide sheets when repositioning or transferring the patient.

Signs of an Infection

There are significant signs and symptoms that a bedsore has become infected. Many of these indicators include:

  • An unusually bad smell emitting from the sore
  • Swelling under and around the damaged skin area
  • Warmth and/or redness around the decubitus ulcer
  • Tenderness around the pressure ulcer
  • The presence of green or yellow pus
  • A general overall sensation of weakness and fatigue
  • Chills or fever
  • Difficulty concentrating or mental confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat.

An Infected Bed Sore is an Obvious Signs of Neglect

Most pressure sores are avoidable, especially those in later stages, where an infection can occur. In many incidences, negligence by the staff treating the patient is the leading factor for causing an infected bedsore.

When there are obvious signs of neglect by the medical staff, it is usually a wise decision to hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in bedsore negligence cases. Our injury lawyers at (800) 926-7565 can offer a free consultation to discuss the issue, and offer legal options to seek financial recompense for the damages involved. Our skilled attorneys specialize in elder abuse law and can take immediate steps to stop the abuse and harm to your loved one.

Related Information

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources

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