During hospital care, it is vital for physicians and nursing staff to protect patients from bed sores. Seemingly innocuous, bed sores (also known as pressure sores, ulcers and decubitus ulcers) are very dangerous and may lead to life threatening medical complications.
They form in patients when the body presses down for a prolonged period of time on an area of the body, forcing the blood supply out of that area, thus depriving the tissues in that area of necessary blood, while simultaneously damaging skin and tissue. Patients who do not get up out of bed to periodically relieve such pressure, or patients who cannot get up on their own and are not moved or repositioned by medical staff, risk pressure buildup resulting in skin break down leading to the development of such bed sores. Common areas where such breakdown occurs include, among other places, the spine, head, hips and heels, and the sacrum.
There are risk factors that make some patients more likely to develop bed sores. These risk factors include: immobility, diabetes, advanced age, a compromised vascular system, and loss of bladder and bowel control. While there are risk factors, however, more than 50% of bed sores are typically brought about from neglect in taking the necessary precautions to prevent them.
There are four stages of bed sores. During stage one, skin is not broken but may be discolored or blistered and red for a period of time no longer than half an hour. Patients suffering from stage two bed sores have broken skin and a shallow ulcer with a possibility of drainage from the sore. In stage three ulcers, patients’ skin is broken down and the ulcer reaches subcutaneous fat and tissue with drainage. Finally, stage four bed sores go as far as the patients’ muscle or bone and patients will suffer from dead tissue.
Ways in which doctors and nursing staff can prevent bedsores are very simple. Precautions include things such as avoiding pressure on bony parts of the body, proper hygiene, good nutrition, and keeping the patients’ skin dry. With proper medical care, there is no reason for a bed sore to first be discovered when it has reached stage four. It is required of hospital staff to keep track in each patient’s medical record how often they are monitored, moved, and any abnormalities that may have developed. Severe bed sores that suddenly appear and were not previously noted are a sure sign that improper monitoring has taken place.
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