Pressure ulcers: causes, diagnosis, treatment


Decubitus is a nutritional disorder of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. It is caused by prolonged pressure and compression of blood vessels. It can possibly lead to the death of the skin and infections. Bedridden people are often affected, but there are other causes as well.

Causes of pressure ulcers

Most commonly, bedsore occurs in bedriddenness. There is a risk of decubitus on parts of the body where there is little or no muscle between the skin and underlying bone. To name mainly are:

  • heels
  • ankle
  • iliac crests
  • coccyx
  • occiput
  • ilium

Ultimately, however, a decubitus can occur at all points. A pressure ulcer can also occur under poorly fitting prostheses or too narrow plaster casts.

Important factors in the development of pressure ulcers

Three factors play a decisive role in pressure ulcer formation:

  1. Pressure (contact pressure)
  2. Time (pressure duration)
  3. Disposition (risk factors)

Only when there is a certain pressure over a longer period of time (two hours) for an existing disposition of the patient does the skin become damaged. A factor on its own does not lead to bedsores.

1st pressure

The perfusion of the capillaries of the skin, the finest blood vessels, which provide for the oxygen and nutrient supply of the individual organs, is hindered as soon as the pressure on the capillaries exceeds a certain level. The pressure on the skin can be exerted externally or internally:

  • External pressure: For example, folds in the bed sheet, unpadded storage rails, crumbs in the bed, but also catheters and probes if they are under the patient.
  • Pressure from inside: Through bones that lie directly under the skin without muscle and fat pads.

2nd time

The decisive factor is how long the pressure on certain skin areas weighs. If the nutrition of the skin cells has been interrupted for less than two hours, they can recover. If the lack of oxygen persists, individual cells die and necrosis is formed (tissue death).

3. Disposition

For example, the skin is damaged by:

  • Fever: Sweating causes dehydration of the body and increased oxygen consumption
  • Moisture: Damp skin softens and is therefore more vulnerable
  • Incontinence: In incontinent patients, the skin is not only burdened by moisture, but also by the acidic pH of the urine and possibly by bacterial contamination (intestinal bacteria)
  • Overweight: Thick patients usually sweat more, while the weight on the skin is greater
  • Shearing forces: The "inclined plane" when sitting incorrectly tugs at the skin

The skin is poorly supplied with blood at:

  • Anemia and heart failure, which favor a deficient blood circulation
  • Diabetes mellitus: Here, in addition to the circulation and the cell metabolism is disturbed

Risk factors for pressure ulcers

The pressure relief is hampered by lack of movement (immobility), bed trouble (such as unconsciousness), paralysis such as hemiplegia and therapeutic immobilization (gypsum). Other risk factors include:

  • Immune deficiency of the body due to inadequate nutrition (eg lack of protein, zinc or vitamin C)
  • bad general condition
  • Cachexia (wasting)
  • chronic diseases that lead to fluid loss and atrophy of the skin

Course of a pressure ulcer

During the course, four levels of pressure ulcer are distinguished:

  1. In a decubitus first degree, you see only a circumscribed redness of the skin.
  2. In the second degree, a skin defect has already occurred.
  3. A third-degree pressure ulcer is a deep skin defect, with muscles, tendons, and ligaments visible.
  4. In the worst form, there is a bone involvement defect.

Complications of a pressure ulcer

An aggravating factor may be infection of the wound. If the tissue dies, it must be surgically removed.

Treatment of a pressure ulcer

If a decubitus ulcer must be treated, it is usually already too late. Very important is the prevention, so that it does not even come to a pressure ulcer. Especially in bedridden patients, the skin should be well maintained. Rubbing in with blood circulation-promoting ointments and a massage of the endangered areas can prevent bedsores from the outset. In addition, care should be taken to a soft storage, possibly on special mattresses.

Good care also requires the transfer of the patient every two hours. The procedure is according to a storage plan: supine position, right lateral position, possibly prone position, left lateral position, supine position, etc. At the first signs of decubitus (redness of the skin), good skin care is the appropriate therapy.

Open wounds need to be cleaned carefully. Anti-inflammatory and healing-promoting ointments are applied to the wound surface. If there is no improvement in the symptoms after three to four days, the medication should be changed. If the skin and the surrounding tissue is already dead, it must be surgically removed.




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