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What Are Bedsores, and Can They Be Prevented?

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and the tissue beneath the skin caused by prolonged pressure. People who are confined to a wheelchair or bed are most susceptible to developing bedsores. Those affected can include hospital patients or nursing home residents. The most common locations that bedsores occur are on a person’s heels, ankles, hips, tailbone, shoulders, back of arms or legs, rim of ears, and the back of the head. In short, the sores generally develop in any area of the body that receives prolonged pressure.

The progression of a bedsore is categorized in four stages, ranging from Stage 1 to Stage 4.

Stage 1:

  • This is the beginning stage of a bedsore.
  • The skin is usually still intact and not broken.
  • The skin may be red or a darker color than the skin.
  • The skin may be tender or painful.
  • The skin may be warm to the touch.

Stage 2:

  • The outer layer of skin and part of the underlying layer of skin is damaged or lost.
  • The wound may look like a fluid-filled blister or a ruptured blister.

Stage 3:

  • The wound will be deep.
  • There will be loss of skin and usually some fat will be exposed.
  • The wound may have some yellow-tinted, dead tissue.

Stage 4:

  • A large amount of tissue will be lost.
  • The wound will be very deep.
  • Muscle, bone, or tendons may be exposed.
  • The wound may contain dead tissue that is yellow-tinted or dark.

In addition to these four broad categories, bedsores may be categorized as unstageable or as a deep-tissue injury.

Unstageable:

  • The surface of the wound is covered in yellow, brown, black, or dead tissue making it impossible to see how deep the wound is.

Deep-Tissue Injury:

  • The skin is dark purple or maroon;
  • There may be a blood-filled blister under the skin;
  • This injury can quickly become a Stage 3 or Stage 4 sore.

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel provides drawings of bedsores in their different stages. Bedsores are very serious and can lead to other medical complications. They can cause Squamous-cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, as well as joint and bone infections, a bacterial infection of the blood stream known as sepsis, and cellulitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissues which can cause meningitis.

While bedsores often lead to unwanted consequences, they can be prevented with proper care.  Caregivers including nursing homes must reposition patients regularly to avoid excessive pressure to one area of the body. Nurses should also inspect the patient’s skin daily and look for any signs of the beginning of a bedsore.  If any issues are seen, a proper wound-care procedure must be put in place immediately so that the wound heals and does not progress. If a patient develops a Stage 3 or 4 bedsore, this is usually a sign of nursing home neglect.

If your loved one has received a serious injury as the result of nursing home abuse or neglect, call the law firm of Nahon, Saharovich, & Trotz.  We have a specialized Nursing Home Neglect Practice Group that can answer questions and assist with your concerns.