[MOL] Caregivers Series-Bed Pressure Sores.... [01225] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Caregivers Series-Bed Pressure Sores....

Bed (Pressure) Sores

What is it?

When people are confined to a bed or a chair, perhaps because of weakness or paralysis, their inability to turn can cause unrelieved pressure on certain parts of the body. As blood flow in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the skin is reduced by this pressure, skin and tissue damage occurs at these pressure points-most commonly on the buttocks, hips, heels, lower spine, shoulder blades, elbows, and ankles.

Also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, bed sores begin with mild redness or duskiness of the site; this is the first and often only warning of imminent tissue breakdown, sometimes leading to very deep ulcers that may extend into the underlying fat, muscle, and bone. Healing is usually very difficult, because many elderly, bedridden individuals have low physical reserves and poor or delayed healing ability.


Ulceration or sore formation on pressure-bearing sites of the skin in bedridden patients; surrounding warmth, tenderness, and swelling; drainage of yellow or green fluid from the ulcer base indicating secondary bacterial growth; pain in the area.


A person who is confined to a bed or a chair should change position at least every 2 hours to relieve pressure upon particular body areas. When lying on the back, pressure can often be eased by placing a pillow under the lower legs. "Egg-crate" pads, air mattresses, and other specially designed cushions can be used to redistribute weight to prevent sores from developing. Also, make sure that the bed sheets are smooth and not wrinkled.

Poor nourishment and anemia may contribute to the development of bed sores and slow their healing-so it is important to eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Exercise can help maintain blood flow; if the bedridden person is not capable of exercising, others can administer passive movement or exercise.


Bed sores typically require a long healing period. Care must be taken to avoid putting pressure on the sore. Antibiotics (oral or topical) may be prescribed. Bed sores must be cleaned frequently, rinsing away dead tissue, and then bandaged. Recommended bandages range from Telfa pads to newer self-adhering occlusive dressings, such as DuoDerm and Opsite.

When to call your doctor

If a part of the body becomes red or purple, this could be the initial sign of a developing bed sore. Call the doctor immediately to begin treatment. Also, if an existent ulcer becomes infected (characterized by redness moving outward into the surrounding skin, pus, and foul odor), see a doctor immediately.

Surgery is sometimes necessary to repair injured tissue.


Proper care can prevent and stimulate the healing of most bed sores. However, healing is often a long process.

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