Every year, many patients die from a facility acquired bed sore because of poor medical care or improper monitoring. Bed Sores, also known as pressure ulcers, pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are preventable wounds caused by unrelieved pressure on the skin. They may be a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, or hospital negligence. Pressure ulcers are one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Pressure ulcers occur in up to 23% of patients in long-term and rehabilitation facilities and at an incidence of 10% to 41% in ICU patients. The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) reported nearly 2.5 million individuals are affected by pressure ulcers, and more than 60,000 patients in the United States die each year as a direct result of pressure ulcers.
A bed sore is an area of skin that breaks down when a patient remains in one position for too long without their weight being shifted. This often happens to patients with compromised mobility who are in wheelchairs or are bedridden due to surgery or injury. The most common places for bed sores are over bony areas such as an elbow, heels, hips, ankles, shoulders, back, and the back of the head. The constant pressure on the skin reduces the blood supply to that area, and the affected tissue dies. The first signs of a bed sore, known as Stage I, are when areas of the skin become red. Stage II occurs when the sore begins to ulcerate and forms a shallow crater as the skin’s outer layers die. This is usually in the form of abrasions or blisters. Advancement to Stage III occurs when the bleeding wound becomes significantly deeper and exposes fatty deposits that reside just above the fascia layers. The final and most severe stage, Stage IV, is life threatening and occurs when the bone, muscle, ligaments, and tendons are exposed at the bottom of the open wound. Stage III and IV is when the body is at greatest risk to infection of the bone (osteomyelitis) and blood (sepsis).
Bed sores are almost always preventable with competent nursing care and medical supervision. To prevent bed sores from occurring, nurses in nursing homes or hospitals must make an assessment of those individuals who are at increased risk for developing bed sores and create a care plan. A care plan should include: frequent rotation to prevent sitting or lying in one area for long periods, pressure relieving air mattresses and special high nutrition diets. A care plan not only needs to be created, but must be implemented. If proper measures are not taken, the tragic result is the development of preventable pressure ulcers that could lead to death. Nursing homes and hospitals should be held legally accountable when negligence results in a patient developing a bed sore.
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control from the National Nursing Home Survey, reported data that showed about 159,000 current U.S. nursing home residents (11%) had pressure ulcers. Stage 2 pressure ulcers were the most common. Residents aged 64 years and under were more likely than older residents to have pressure ulcers. Residents of nursing homes for a year or less were more likely to have pressure ulcers than those with longer stays. One in five nursing home residents with a recent weight loss had pressure ulcers. Thirty-five percent of nursing home residents with Stage II or higher pressure ulcers received special wound care services.
If you believe that you or a family member contracted a life threatening bed sore that should have been prevented because proper protocols were not followed, The Thistle Law Firm is experienced in these claims and can help you understand your legal options and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.
- Russo CA, Elixhauser A. Hospitalizations Related to Pressure Sores, 2003: Statistical Brief #3. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Briefs. Rockville (MD);2006.
- VanGilder C, Harrison P, Meyer S. Results of the 2008–2009 International Pressure Ulcer Prevalence Survey and a three year acute care unit specific analysis. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2009;55(11):39–45.
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- Financial Impact of Pressure Ulcers. Available at: www.leafhealthcare.com/pdfs/LH_WP_FinancialOverview_1563AA_PDF_100514.pdf. Accessed December 30, 2015.
- Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality. Preventing Pressure Ulcers in Hospitals. 2016. Available at: www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/hospital/pressureulcertoolkit/putool1.html. Accessed February 7, 2016.