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Preventing Pressure Sores

Preventing Pressure Sores

Pressure sores can be extremely debilitating, often causing pain, discomfort and serious complications. That is why if you or a loved one has developed a pressure sore in hospital, you need to know why it happened, and whether or not it could have been prevented.

Why Do Pressure Sores Happen?

As the body's largest organ, the skin needs a healthy supply of nutrients, water and oxygen. These are provided by an extensive network of blood vessels, which also carry away any unwanted waste products. Should the skin be compressed, however, then the supply of blood will be disrupted. This will mean the necessary oxygen and nutrients will fail to reach the tissue, while the waste products will continue to build up. Both these factors will serve to damage the skin, eventually resulting in a pressure sore.

Pressure sores will, therefore, happen to those whose blood supply is being distorted in some way. This will usually arise due to one of three reasons:-

  1. Pressure which can either be a small amount of pressure over a long period, or a large amount of pressure over a short period;
  2. Shearing eg. whereby someone repeatedly slips or slides down a chair;
  3. Friction eg. from repeated movements over a rough surface.

Can Pressure Sores Be Prevented?

Pressure sores can, by and large, be prevented. To do so, medical professionals must assess all patients in hospital to check whether or not they are at risk of developing a sore. This includes people who have:-

  • Reduced mobility eg. due to illness or surgery;
  • Complete immobility eg. due to acute illness;
  • Incontinence, causing moisture on the skin;
  • A poor diet or fluid intake;
  • Advanced age, causing poor circulation.

If someone is thought to be at risk, there are a number of simple but very effective measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of damage being sustained. For example, medical staff should:-

  • Regularly check the skin for early signs of damage in particular, attention should be given to bony prominences;
  • Frequently change a patient's position;
  • Keep the skin clean and dry;
  • Provide a healthy diet and plenty of fluids;
  • Reduce friction to the skin eg. with a special mattress or protective garments.

If these steps are taken, it is more than likely a pressure sore will be prevented entirely, or will at least be diagnosed in the early stages before damage becomes extensive.

Do Pressure Sores Amount To Medical Negligence?

If you are being treated in a healthcare environment (such as a hospital or nursing home) and you develop a pressure sore, you may question how it happened. Indeed, patients should be risk assessed upon being admitted, with those believed to be in danger of developing a pressure sore regularly monitored. In the event a pressure sore does begin to develop, the appropriate treatment should be given promptly to ensure a patient's condition does not deteriorate.

Therefore if you do experience a pressure sore, it may be that medical staff did not provide an acceptable standard of care, perhaps because there was a failure to:-

  • Carry out a risk assessment;
  • Take steps to prevent a pressure sore from developing;
  • Diagnose and treat a pressure sore.

If this has happened to you and you have suffered from a pressure sore as a result, speak to a medical negligence solicitor to discuss your options. It may be that you were the victim of a sub-standard level of care, putting you in a position to make a claim for the pain and suffering you have experienced.

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