Pressure ulcers are areas of damage to the skin and underlying tissue. They are caused by a combination of pressure, shearing and friction. The most common sites are the skin overlying the sacrum, coccyx, heels or the hips, but other sites such as the elbows, knees, ankles or the back of the cranium can be affected.
Pressure ulcers occur due to pressure applied to soft tissue resulting in completely or partially obstructed blood flow to the soft tissue. Shear is also a cause, as it can pull on blood vessels that feed the skin. Pressure ulcers most commonly develop in individuals who are not moving about, such as being bedridden or are confined to a wheelchair.
People who are in intensive care are more prone to developing pressure ulcers due to a number of factors such as immobility, poor circulation, moist skin and impaired nutrition or fluid intake.
The healthcare team will need to regularly examine the patient and carry out a risk assessment. Then a prevention plan will be implemented which will include: regular skin inspection, regular repositioning, use of specialist equipment and referral to relevant healthcare professionals.