What are Pressure Ulcers and Why are They a Problem?

By Kindred Healthcare

Have you ever heard the term “bed sore” before? “Bed sore” is another way of saying “pressure ulcer,” a condition that occurs when pressure, with or without friction, builds up in an area of the body, such as the sacrum, coccyx, heels or hips, particularly in an immobile person. Pressure obstructs blood flow to the soft tissue, causing injury to the area. Because pressure ulcers can develop in patients confined to wheelchairs or beds in a hospital or long-term care facility, caregivers must be well trained in preventing pressure ulcers and treating them early and effectively when they do develop. The more advanced a pressure ulcer gets, the harder it is to treat and the longer it may take to heal.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, pressure ulcers are an important problem and the government has made them a healthcare priority. The agency states that each year more than 2.5 million people in the United States develop pressure ulcers that put them at risk for infection and greater utilization of healthcare resources. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has limited reimbursement for patients in hospitals where they have acquired pressure ulcers.

Raising the visibility of the problem pressure ulcers present is an important step in reducing their incidence. November 21 was National Pressure Ulcer Day, and several Kindred facilities demonstrated their dedication to confronting the problem of pressure ulcers in some creative ways.

Here’s what some of the facilities did, in their own words:

“At Kindred Hospital Rome… we had shirts made that said ‘Kindred Against Pressure Ulcers’ and we had an ice cream social with a ‘Beautiful Butt Cake’ and water bottles with ‘10 Ways to Prevent Pressure Ulcers.’ Everyone had a great time. Each person who entered the room had to mention at least one way to prevent a pressure ulcer, to receive their butt cake, ice cream, and water.” – Darlene Dean, Wound Care Coordinator

“At Kindred Hospital Westminster we posted signs to help us prevent pressure ulcers. We also had ‘Protect the PEAR’ t-shirts made. P = position every two hours. E = elevate the heels. A = apply protective barrier. R - relay the message; re-consult wound care.” – Fady Saber, Wound Care Coordinator

“The nursing staff at Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation – Blueberry Hill received the ‘Golden Bum’ award for applying the prevention intervention methods taught to them and having a pressure-free unit.” – Kathy Tsalopoulos, Director of Nursing Services, East Regional Office

“For National Pressure Ulcer Prevention Day, the staff at Kindred Hospital Clear Lake is finishing a contest for the best prevention slogan for our hospital. There are some pretty clever ideas. We will select the winner, then illustrate the slogan and make posters for each unit. Just thinking up a slogan has increased awareness.” – Darla Restivo, Wound Care Coordinator

Finally, to recognize Worldwide Pressure Ulcer Prevention Day, a group of CNAs at Kindred Hospital Kansas City competed in an "Amazing Race" wound care contest sponsored by Coloplast, a maker of wound care devices, and won first place. They were presented with a certificate, Kindred fleece jackets and a pizza party.