Nursing Home Pressure Ulcer Rates Topped 11 Percent in 2004

A recently released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") found that more than one in 10 nursing home residents had a pressure ulcer (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer) in 2004.

The report found that approximately 159,000 nursing home residents—11% of the total—had some form of pressure ulcer (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer) that year. Stage two pressure ulcers were the most prevalent, the report found. Younger residents who experienced shorter lengths of stay also were more likely to have pressure ulcers (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer). Only 35% of those with pressure ulcers stage two or higher (more severe) received special wound care treatment, according to the CDC.

The report, "Pressure Ulcers Among Nursing Home Residents: United States, 2004," was based on data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey, which sampled responses from more than 14,000 nursing home residents around the country. The CDC report is featured in this article. The original and complete report can be found online at

The effective prevention of pressure ulcers (pressure sores, bed sores, bedsores, decubitus ulcers) includes good hygiene, frequent turning and repositioning, good nutrition, and the use of support surfaces that minimize and redistribute pressure while patients are in bed and chairs.

Effective pressure ulcer (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer) treatment in the past has included hydrogel dressings, which create a moist environment for proper healing and can be used to debride wounds.  Newer therapies are also being used:  silver therapies; negative pressure; non-contact ultrasound; and bioengineered skin grafting.  Once healed, most pressure ulcers (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer) redevelop because direct care providers relax their preventative efforts and permit continued pressure on the areas around the healed wounds.  Effective training and staff education is critical to proper pressure ulcer (pressure sore, bed sore, bedsore, decubitus ulcer) prevention, the timely and accurate identification of these wounds, and to their treatment.
The single most important way in which pressure ulcers (pressure sores, bed sores, bedsores, decubitus ulcers) are prevented and treated is adequate staffing. When nursing homes and assisted living facilities are adequately staffed, they are able to meet and sometimes exceed the needs of patients who are at risk for developing pressure ulcers.  In those cases, pressure ulcers (pressure sores, bed sores, bedsores, decubitus ulcers) either don't develop or, once developed, heal quickly and without complication.  
When, however, facilities are understaffed, patients seldom receive proper hygiene, seldom are turned and repositioned as frequently as they need to be, do not receive proper nutritional support, and are not given support surfaces that help prevent and treat these wounds.  Unless and until nursing homes and assisted living facilities properly staff themselves, pressure ulcers will continue to occur. All pressure ulcers are preventable and avoidable. 
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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