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What Are Pressure Ulcers?

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores or pressure sores, develop when an area of skin is placed under too much pressure for a long period of time, resulting in the blood supply to that part of the body being cut off and affecting the skin and underlying tissue.

Most people are constantly subconsciously shifting their body so that one point isn't under too much pressure, but elderly people and people with mobility problems struggle to do this, increasing their risk developing a pressure sore. The severity of pressure ulcers can range from low, as in Grade 1 (reddening of the skin looks like a minor burn), and severe (Grade 4 can be life threatening.)

How Can Pressure Ulcers Develop?

Pressure ulcers are particularly prone to developing on bony parts of the body, such as hips, elbows, ankles, buttocks, and the back of the head. As well as poor mobility and old age, it is possible that pressure ulcers could develop due to other intrinsic risk factors, such as poor nutrition, obesity, urinary or bowel incontinence and health conditions such as diabetes. Conditions such as pressure from a hard surface (such as a wheelchair or bed) over a long time period and moisture on the skin can also increase the risk of a pressure ulcer developing. If a patient is particularly susceptible, a pressure ulcer can develop within a matter of hours.

How Can Pressure Ulcers Be Prevented?

Nurses use a grading system, known as the Waterlow Score, to establish how at risk a particular patient is of developing pressure ulcers. The scoring is as follows: -

  • Between 10 and 14 patient is at risk;
  • Between 15 and 20 patient is at high risk;
  • Over 20 patient is at very high risk.

Although this system determines which patients require being particularly closely monitored, it is important that all susceptible patients are monitored closely in order to prevent the development of pressure ulcers.

In order to decrease the risk of pressure ulcers in vulnerable patients, it is important that medical staff follow a set of procedures. These procedures are as follows:-

  • Helping to adjust the position of a patient and making sure certain body surfaces are not under pressure for long periods of time;
  • Inspecting areas prone to pressure ulcers regularly and be aware of any early signs of damage;
  • If an area has been identified as developing a sore, undergoing appropriate care and treatment, including the use of pressure-relieving aids if required;
  • Making sure pressure areas are well-cared for, kept clean and dry and a good level of hygiene is being maintained.

Pressure Ulcers And Medical Negligence

Although pressure ulcers may still develop even when a patient is being looked after to a high standard, unfortunately there are many cases when a patient has developed bedsores due to an insufficient level of medical care. Situations like this may occur if medical staff do not:-

  • Complete a pressure ulcer assessment;
  • Monitor a patient with a high Waterlow score closely;
  • Employ measures in order to prevent pressure ulcers;
  • Administer the correct treatment once a potential pressure ulcer has been identified.

If you or a loved one has suffered pain or discomfort as a result of medical negligence, you may be able to receive compensation. Our specialist solicitors can take a look at your circumstances and give you the help and advice you need to decide your next move.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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