Update on the State of Pressure Ulcers in the United States

Pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores, are a major health concern in hospitals and nursing homes across the United States. These wounds result from prolonged exposure to pressure, friction, and shear, generally in patients with limited mobility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2.5 million individuals suffer from pressure ulcers every year, and an estimated 60,000 die. The condition results in billions of dollars in healthcare costs annually. In this article, we will discuss the current state of pressure ulcers in the US, the challenges faced by healthcare providers, and strategies we can use for prevention and management.

Pressure ulcers are a significant problem for hospitals and nursing homes as patients develop them only after they begin to appear on the skin, and after they’ve been festering underneath. Front liners like nurses, doctors, and CNAs regularly assess patients at high risk such as those confined to a bed or a wheelchair, for the development of pressure ulcers. Hospitals take preventive measures with orders for the individual to be turned every 12 hours. In trauma wards for instance, the risk of a pressure ulcer is almost unavoidable. When pressure ulcers develop after admission, they considered the hospital’s fault, leading to litigation and penalty from CMS.

What makes pressure ulcers problematic for hospitals is that they most often occur the day after admission. Once admitted, hospitals are required to take appropriate measures to mitigate the occurrence of these bedsores. It is quite costly for hospitals and nursing homes to prevent pressure ulcers. The average 300-bed acute facility spends $14 million a year on pressure ulcer prevention and treatment, and CMS spends $22 billion on pressure ulcers as a secondary diagnosis. These healthcare expenses make it a costly endeavor for many hospitals.

Stage 4 pressure ulcer of the sacrum

Pressure ulcers inflict significant pain on patients, leading to depression and extended hospitalization. They also increase the cost of healthcare, causing significant financial burden on providers. The prevalence of the condition in hospitals and nursing homes, in addition to the substantial associated costs, make pressure ulcers a significant challenge to manage.

Preventing pressure ulcers in hospitals would mitigate the steep costs associated with them, prevent litigation, and provide a better standard of care to patients. Regularly turning immobile patients is a necessary step and utilizing skin-protective applications, pads, and mattresses. To prevent pressure ulcers, hygiene and incontinence management is also essential. When the ulcers do occur, appropriate management plans include removing pressure, maintaining skin hygiene, and supporting the healing process.

Pressure ulcers are a significant problem in the US, affecting millions of individuals annually and inflicting substantial pain and increased healthcare expenses. Healthcare providers face significant challenges preventing, managing, and treating pressure ulcers. Preventive measures, such as regularly turning immobile patients, skin-protective applications, and hygiene and incontinence management, are essential. Appropriate management plans for patients who have developed pressure ulcers include removing pressure, maintaining skin hygiene, and supporting the healing process. Pressure ulcers are manageable, and healthcare professionals must take a proactive approach to reduce their occurrence and severity.

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