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Sobering Bed Sore Statistics Regarding Prevalence, Infection & Death
By Nursing Home Law Center
Statistics from American Nurse Today detail the alarming prevalence of pressure-related injuries, including bed sores. Also known as pressure ulcers, skin injuries like bed sores can result in severe complications if left untreated.
Bed Sore Statistics
A May 2018 supplement to American Nurse Today explains the status, risks, and complications of pressure injuries for medical professionals. One section of this supplement, "The Challenge of Pressure Injuries," reveals an alarming picture of bed sores in United States hospitals.
- Up to 60,000 Americans die every year due to bed sores and pressure injuries.
- Nearly 1.2 million cases of hospital-acquired bed sores and pressure injuries occurred in 2015 alone.
- Pressure injuries and bed sores made up 31.6% of all hospital-acquired conditions.
- Patients with pressure injuries have a higher mortality rate than other hospital patients: 9.1% mortality for pressure injury patients versus 1.8% for all hospital patients.
- Patients with pressure injuries have longer hospital stays of 7 days, versus the average hospital stay of 3 days.
- Patients with pressure injuries have more expensive hospital stays with an average of $36,500, compared to the overall average of $17,200.
When it comes to bed sore prevalence among nursing home residents, the data is not as readily available. The most recent reputable report of nursing home bed sore statistics comes from a 2004 brief by the Center for Disease Control. This report states that:
- In 2004, nearly 159,000 nursing home residents developed pressure ulcers - nearly 11% of the entire nursing home population in the United States.
- On average, anywhere from 2% to 28% of nursing home residents can have pressure ulcers.
- Stage II pressure ulcers, which cause open wounds but do not damage tissue or bone, are the most common.
- In 2004, only 35% of nursing home residents with Stage II or higher bed sores received special care services for the wounds.
- Nursing home residents under the age of 64 were more likely to develop bed sores than older residents.
Pressure Ulcer Challenges Faced by Medical Professionals
Pressure ulcers are a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. However, many hospitals and treatment centers face multiple challenges when attempting to treat them.
- Medical professionals lack common assessment tools for analyzing bed sore injuries within the hospital. As a result, doctors can unintentionally misclassify the severity of a patient's injury. For example, doctors can re-classify a Stage IV bed sore as a Stage II bed sore after significant healing, but muscle and skin damage are still present.
- Many patients cannot move freely within a hospital or nursing home. This lack of mobility can lead to increased and worsened bed sores.
- Many hospitals have limited access to pressure injury prevention awareness, leading to instances of neglect that harm patients.
However, hospitals and nursing homes owe their patients a duty of care to treat their injuries. In the case of nursing homes, staff should know the risks and complications associated with pressure ulcers. Injuries are most common in patients with limited mobility and on bed rest. Limited and bed-ridden patients make up a significant proportion of nursing home populations and require consistent care to prevent pressure injuries.
Complications of Bed Sore Injuries
If left untreated, pressure ulcers can develop into severe complications for patients. Although many complications are rare, nursing home staff should seek immediate treatment for patients with bed sores. Stage IV bed sores are more likely to develop complications than Stage II bed sores, but inaction can lead to a bed sore injury worsening.
- Untreated bed sores can lead to cellulitis, or a skin and soft tissue infection. Patients can experience redness, warmth, and swelling in the area affected by cellulitis. However, patients with limited mobility or spinal cord injuries could miss symptoms of cellulitis if they do not feel pain in the affected area.
- In very rare cases, pressure ulcers can lead to sepsis, or an infection in the blood stream. Sepsis can be deadly if left untreated.
- Pressure ulcer infections can spread into the joints, damaging cartilage and tissue. If left untreated, patients can develop joint infections such as septic arthritis.
- In rare cases, untreated bed sores can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. A form of skin cancer, most patients with squamous cell carcinoma make a full recovery.
- Untreated pressure ulcers can also lead to bone infections such as osteomyelitis. Patients can lose function in their limbs and joints with this condition.
Nursing Home Negligence and Bed Sore Injuries
Bed sore injuries are often a sign of nursing home neglect. Bed sores are a preventable injury and nursing homes with limited-mobility patients should receive training to combat them. Common preventative techniques include:
- Frequent repositioning in bed, at least once every two hours
- Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet
- Drinking lots of water
- Exercising daily
- Keeping skin clean and dry
If nursing home staff neglect their patients with mobility issues, bed sores can develop easily and quickly. Some nursing home staff could ignore the symptoms of bed sores, actively hide the injuries from family members, or be unaware that the injury is developing. As a result, a Stage I bed sores can easily progress into a Stage III or even Stage IV - with potentially fatal results for the patient.
If you have a loved one who developed bed sores due to nursing home neglect, you may have options for legal action. Contact Nursing Home Law Center LLC today to receive a free case evaluation.
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