Pressure Ulcer Prevention and Treatment: Everything You Need to Know

There is a lot to consider when it comes to pressure ulcer prevention and treatment. Here, we’ll unpack everything you need to know about pressure ulcers, including what they are, and the steps to take when it comes to pressure ulcer prevention and the treatments available.

Pressure ulcers are recognised as a significant challenge across the healthcare sector, from the community to the acute care setting. Sometimes referred to as ‘pressure injuries’, ‘pressure sores’ and historically ‘bed sores’ or ‘decubitus ulcers’, the varying terminology can cause confusion. For instance, certain countries or regions predominantly use the term ‘pressure injuries’; whereas, within the UK, ‘pressure ulcer’ is recognised as the most widely used term and is consistent with the EPUAP definitions.1 In fact, NHS Improvement details the definition of a pressure ulcer as:

“A pressure ulcer is localised damage to the skin and/or underlying tissue, usually over bony prominences (or related to medical or other device), resulting from sustained pressure (including pressure associated with shear). The damage can be present as intact skin or an open ulcer and may be painful”.1

Pressure Ulcer Prevention 

When it comes to pressure ulcer prevention, it’s important to ensure that there is a level of early intervention involved. It’s therefore important to make sure you’re taking all of the necessary steps to control and avoid their development entirely.

It’s recommended to have a structured risk assessment carried out for your patient within six hours after admission in order to identify the possibility of pressure ulcer development.2,3

When it comes to pressure ulcer prevention, it’s important to consider the risk factors and ensure that there is a level of clinical judgement involved. Making intuitive and situational decisions about patient treatment is imperative, as the risk of pressure ulcers may differ for all patients depending on the person and their history since admission. Early intervention can be what ensures patients have access to the necessary equipment needed to avoid the risks of pressure ulcer development.

So what are the right steps to take when it comes to pressure ulcer prevention? Using tools such as the aSSKINg model have been incredibly helpful for healthcare staff in understanding a consistent approach to pressure ulcer prevention.3 This addresses the following areas or actions for consideration:
a – Assess risk
S – Skin assessment and skin care
S – Surface selection
K – Keep moving
I – Incontinence & increased moisture
N – Nutrition & hydration
g – Giving information

Among these, “Keep moving” or mobilisation is key to making sure your patient isn’t spending prolonged amounts of time putting pressure on areas prone to developing pressure ulcers. Developing a schedule for the patient that works to increase activity can be a helpful tool to do this. Find out how best to go about increasing mobilisation for your patient here.

Pressure Ulcer Treatment

Once a pressure ulcer has begun to develop, there are different things to consider when it comes to pressure ulcer treatment. Early intervention steps may not have been enough to prevent the pressure ulcer from developing, so it’s important to be aware of taking the necessary course of action.

Pressure ulcers can be incredibly painful and can lead to serious complications such as infections and even amputations. Therefore, it is essential to know how to treat them effectively.

The first step in treating pressure ulcers is to relieve the pressure on the affected area. This can be achieved by repositioning the patient frequently, using specialised mattresses and cushions, and educating the patient on the importance of changing positions regularly. It is also important to ensure that the patient’s skin is kept clean and dry to prevent further irritation and damage.

With proper care and attention, patients can make a full recovery. By relieving pressure and providing wound care, medical professionals can help patients manage their condition and prevent further complications. It is essential to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that meets the patient’s individual needs and ensures the best possible outcome.

Surface technology has been found to have beneficial effects in pressure ulcer treatment. Read about the use of therapeutic surface technology and its effects on pressure ulcer prevention here.

Download Our Pressure Ulcer Guide

Read our three-part series on pressure ulcer prevention:

Part 1: Carrying out a risk assessment
Part 2: Ensuring early intervention
Part 3: Early Mobilisation

Find out how Dolphin Therapy plays a part in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment:

  1. NHS Improvements. Pressure ulcer: revised definition and measurements, summary, and recommendations. June 2018
  2. Pressure Ulcers, Quality Standard. NICE Guidance (2015)
  3. EPUAP: Treatment of Pressure Ulcers: Quick Reference Guide (2016)
  4. NHS Improvements. Pressure Ulcer Core Curriculum [Curriculum Outline Framework]. June 2018