Hospital Bedsores Continue to Cause Serious Problems in Facilities Nationwide

Despite signs that hospital bedsores are on the decline, the most severe types of pressure sore injuries have not abated and continue to cause a high rate of problems nationwide, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from the University of Michigan report that hospital-acquired pressure ulcers (HAPUs) have dropped 23 percent in recent years, but the decline appears only to be affecting early stage ulcers. According to findings published last week in the online edition of the medical journal Health Affairs, more serious hospital bedsore injuries continued to occur at relatively the same rate.

Also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores, bedsores can develop in a hospital, nursing home or other long-term care facility as a result of a lack of blood flow to an area of the skin that is caused by prolonged pressure on one area of the body.

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Bedsores pose a serious health risk for patients, as they can develop into open wounds that can become infected. The injuries most commonly develop in places with prominent bones beneath thin layers of skin, such as the heels, elbows and tailbone. Residents with limited mobility, who have trouble or are unable to move independently, face the greatest risk of the painful and potentially life-threatening pressure ulcers.

In this new study, researchers looked at Medicare programs in three states, and looked at the incidence, severity and trends in bedsore data from 2009 to 2014.

According to the data, they found declines, but not in the rates of severe ulcers, such as stage 3 or stage 4, or ulcers so bad they are categorized as unstageable.

“HAPU incidence in administrative data declined, but 96 percent of the change was due to a decline in the incidence of less severe HAPUs,” the researchers reported. In addition, the researchers found that looking at patients’ medical charts suggest that the Medicare billing records only account for one-twentieth of actual bedsore incidents.

The researchers concluded that, despite the declines, more needs to be done in preventing pressure sores.

Most medical organizations consider bedsores to be a preventable condition that can be treated if detected early through proper diligence on the part of medical staff and care providers. Failure to prevent, identify, or properly treat bedsores can result in life-threatening infections that enter the bloodstream, known as sepsis.

In many cases, hospital negligence lawsuits are filed on behalf of residents who develop bedsores as a result of the staffs failure to identify early signs of the sores and prevent the development of more serious decubitus ulcers.

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