Pressure Ulcers

Published on 26/03/2015 by admin

Filed under Critical Care Medicine

Last modified 26/03/2015

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204 Pressure Ulcers

image Epidemiology

A pressure ulcer is any wound that develops in the upper, outer layers of the skin as a result of sustained, external pressure.1 Pressure ulcers are serious complications among hospitalized patients. They increase healthcare costs, decrease patient quality of life, and often result in prolonged hospital stays. Current estimates of the prevalence of pressure ulcers among hospital patients vary. A recent analysis of acute care hospitals in the United States estimated a prevalence of 14% to 17% among hospitalized patients.2 Another recent Canadian study estimated that one out of four patients will develop a pressure ulcer during the course of their hospital stay.3 The prevalence of pressure ulcers is even higher among residents of long-term geriatric facilities, occurring in up to 30% of patients. Whereas the majority of the ulcers (50%) in hospitalized patients are stage 1, the prevalence of stage 3 and 4 ulcers is estimated to be as high as 4% in patients who reside in long-term care facilities.

image Risk Factors

There are multiple risk factors for the development of pressure ulcers; they can be categorized as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic risk factors are those related to the patient’s preexisting medical condition(s). Extrinsic factors are those related to the patient’s environment. Intrinsic risk factors include neurologic disease, motor impairment, cognitive impairment, sensory deficits, malnutrition, and hypoperfusion due to peripheral vascular disease or congestive heart failure. Extrinsic risk factors include inadequate mobilization by care providers, trauma, sedation, application of physical restraints, improper positioning (especially among patients under general anesthesia), moisture, and shearing forces. Among these risk factors, failure to frequently change position is thought to be the biggest contributor to pressure ulcer formation. The combination of improper positioning and moisture at the skin surface are frequent causes of pressure ulcer formation in critically ill patients.

Because of the underlying pathophysiology of pressure ulcer formation, there are several high-risk areas for the development of pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers are more prone to develop in bony or cartilaginous areas. These include any area of the body that has limited soft-tissue coverage such as the coccyx, spinous processes, heels, elbows, and ankles. In patients who are mostly positioned on their side, the iliac crest and trochanters are considered high-risk areas. Additionally, patients with malnutrition and subsequent cachexia have significant loss of soft tissue and are more prone to the development of pressure ulcers at any location.

image Classification

All pressure ulcers begin in the outer layers of the skin. With ongoing pressure, the ischemia progressively extends to deeper layers of the skin. Therefore, the classification of pressure ulcers is based upon the depth of skin involvement. Pressure ulcers are classified as stage I through IV, with stage I being the most superficial, and stage IV being the deepest. The classification of pressure ulcers is listed in Table 204-1. Having a uniform, well-defined classification system for pressure ulcers is critical. It not only allows for standardization of wounds for research purposes but also allows for accurate communication of wound staging among healthcare providers. Once a pressure ulcer develops, it is important to classify the wound and monitor the progress of the wound bed. Having a standard grading system allows for continuity of care and objective monitoring of the progression of the wound.

TABLE 204-1 Pressure Ulcer Staging

National Pressure Ulcer Staging System
Stage I Nonblanching erythema of intact skin
Stage II Partial-thickness skin loss involving the epidermis and/or dermis. The ulcer is superficial and presents clinically as an abrasion, blister, or shallow crater.
Stage III Full-thickness skin loss with damage and/or necrosis of the subcutaneous tissue. The wound extends down to but not through the underlying fascia.
Stage IV Full-thickness skin loss with extensive destruction and necrosis of overlying structures including muscles, bone, or tendon