Where Does the Term “Bed Sore” Originate?

By Nursing Home Law Center

StoryThe term bedsore dates back to the 1860's. After people were bedridden for long periods of time, skin lesions would form on their bodies. Bedsores are also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers.

We now know that bedsores do not require a bed. Those confined to wheelchairs or who remain for a long time immobile on gurneys or any hard surface can also develop bedsores.

What is a Bedsore?

A bedsore is a wound that develops in a person's body after long periods of immobility. The constant pressure on the body restricts the flow of blood to the tissue. The tissue then dies slowly and a wound opens up.

Bedsores progressively get worse if not treated, and are categorized according to severity. The four categories of bedsores are:

  • Stage I. The bedsore is only beginning to form. The skin is not breached but has turned red. Later on, it may turn purple. It could appear swollen and be warm and/or hard to the touch.
  • Stage II. The bedsore is more advanced and the skin has broken into abrasions. Blisters may be present along with the abrasions. Treatment is more intensive now and the risk of infection is higher. If not treated here, the wound will grow life-threatening.
  • Stage III. The skin has worn away to reveal underlying tissue. Infection is now a serious threat and treatment options are more invasive. The wound takes the form of a shallow crater.
  • Stage IV. The bedsore is a crater-like wound now. The skin and tissue are gone and the muscle and bone have been exposed. Treatment is critical to save the life of the patient and can include surgery to remove dead tissue. A graft of healthy skin from elsewhere on the body to the site of the wound is most likely necessary. The infection risk is at its highest.

Where Do Bedsores Tend to Form?

Bedsores form where the body comes into constant contact with a surface like a mattress or a wheelchair. The anatomy of the body and the position the patient sits or lays in determine which body parts bear the weight of the body. Pressure sores are more likely to form on parts of the body where there is little fat. Fat is a cushion against pressure, although there is no guarantee that no bedsore will form on the body where there is fat.

The body parts where bedsores are most likely to form include:

  • Back of head
  • Ankles
  • Heels
  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Knees
  • Spine

Who is at Risk of Developing Bedsores?

There are a handful of conditions which increase the likelihood that a patient will develop bedsores. Diligent preventative care can almost always keep bedsores from forming, but even in the best of circumstances there remains a possibility.

The conditions in which bedsores are commonly discovered are:

  • Paralysis. A patient who is paralyzed in some way is more likely to develop bedsores due to decreased mobility. Paraplegic patients will have difficulty moving their legs and lack the sensation needed to warn them there is a problem. Quadriplegic patients cannot move at all and will require caregiver help.
  • Diabetes. Diabetics often suffer from neuropathy, which is deadened sensation. This weakens the natural alarm system. Diabetics also often have reduced capacity to heal, which makes bedsores a more formidable problem when they do form.
  • Coma. A comatose patient cannot move. Unlike sleeping patients, they will not toss and turn or roll over. This means that unless someone turns them, there will be no pressure relief that the body needs.
  • Weakness. Some patients are too weak to move, or not motivated. Elderly patients often struggle to move and even younger patients, depending on their illness, may not be able to summon the will to move enough. These patients depend on their caregivers for help.

Related Information

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources

Client Reviews

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric