Pressure Ulcers

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Chronic wounds of the lower extremities impose an increasing burden on health care providers and systems, and they can have a devastating impact on patients and their families. These wounds include diabetic ulcers, venous ulcers, arterial ulcers, and pressure injuries. The estimated socioeconomic cost of chronic wounds is 2% to 4% of the health budget in Western countries. Moreover, patient mortality in individuals with chronic wounds has been estimated at 28% over a two-year period, significantly higher than the 4% mortality rate reported for 75 to 79 year-olds without chronic wounds.

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Chronic and complex wounds of the lower extremity frequently recur. It is difficult to determine the precise recurrence rate across patients with different lower extremity wound types, including diabetic foot ulcers, arterial ulcers, pressure injuries, and venous ulcers. However, we know that recurrence rates are high; nearly 40% of patients with an ulcer will develop a recurrence within one year of healing. This percentage is 60% at three years after healing and 65% at the five-year mark.

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By Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine Journal Review Club

Hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure injuries, and venous leg ulcers, comprise a significant portion of health care visits, and these wounds place a physical and economic burden on many patients. These hard-to-heal wounds are defined as wounds with stagnant or delayed stages of healing that fail to resolve within eight weeks. Finding ways to accelerate this healing process is of great importance because it can reduce the physical and economic burden on patients, as well as decreasing costs for health care facilities. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are endopeptidases, which are involved in many healing processes, including the cell signaling processes, migration processes, angiogenesis, and the degradation of extracellular proteins. These mechanisms are necessary for the wound healing process by breaking down damaged tissue. In the late stages of healing, when breaking down of tissue is no longer necessary, tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases down-regulate MMPs. In hard-to-heal wounds, this process is thrown off balance, with delays in the subsequent stages of healing. In an attempt to restore this balance, MMPs have been investigated for their role in wound healing through MMP-inhibiting wound dressings. There have been a number of consequential reviews done using current market wound dressings, such as oxidized regenerated cellulose/collagen and Technology Lipido-Colloid with nano-oligosaccharide factor (TLC-NOSF).

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Patients who develop stage 3 and 4 pressure injuries with prolonged wound chronicity and complexity may require surgical intervention. One surgical method used to encourage healing in pressure injuries is flap surgery, which involves taking a section of skin with an intact blood supply and placing it over the injured area. Flaps play a major role in the healing of wounds with exposed structure. Flap surgery can help prevent hospitalization and decrease morbidity. Flap surgery is used to prevent and resolve complications, including surgical site infections and other infections, dehiscence, recurrence, flap necrosis, nutrient deficiencies, and prevention of future malignancy (Marjolin ulcer) and seroma or hematoma.

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When pressure injury prevention fails as a result of non-adherence, various comorbidities, or gaps in care, it makes a major impact on the nation’s economy and has estimated costs of more than $100 billion in the United States.

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WoundSource Practice Accelerator's picture

Pressure injuries are among the most significant health and patient safety issues that health care facilities face daily. Aside from the strong impact on patients’ quality of life, they also have high costs of treatment, not just to the patient, but also to the health care industry. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported $20,900 to $151,700 per individual patient and pressure injury in health care costs. The prevalence of present-on-admission (POA) pressure injuries is 26.2% among those admitted to the hospital from a nursing home and 4.8% among those admitted from another living setting. Hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPIs) cost the US health care system $9.1 to $11.6 billion a year.

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced health care professionals to take a closer look at the most effective and appropriate measures for pressure injury prevention. In 17% of all COVID-19 cases pneumonia secondary to acute respiratory distress syndrome is the most common complication; therefore, prone positioning is used as an adjuvant therapy. The prone position allows for dorsal lung region recruitment, end-expiratory lung volume increase, and alveolar shunt decrease. To be most effective, this position should be maintained for 10 to 12 hours, thereby increasing prolonged pressure on certain areas of the body. However, prone positioning should be supervised and monitored regularly by nursing staff experienced with this positioning technique.

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Adherence: Adherence is a term used to replace "compliance" in reference to a patient following clinician orders for wound care. Compliance implies that the patient should passively comply with the health care provider’s instructions, whereas adherence allows for patients to have the freedom to follow the provider’s recommendation without blame being focused on them if they do not or are not able to follow these recommendations.

Medical device–related pressure injury (MDRPI): MDPRIs are localized injuries to the skin or underlying tissue resulting from sustained pressure caused by a medical device, such as a brace, splint, cast, respiratory mask or tubing, or feeding tube.

Offloading: Offloading refers to minimizing or removing weight placed on the foot to help prevent and heal ulcers, particularly those caused by poor circulation to the feet due to diabetes.

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Heidi Cross's picture

By Heidi Cross, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, CWON

In the previous blog, I briefly went through the standards of care when it comes to nutrition and pressure injury (PI) prevention and development and discussed what a large role nutrition plays in PI litigation. Here are several instances: Punitive damages of $92 million, later lowered to $11,855,000, were imposed where malnutrition and dehydration were proven against a nursing home. A dietary manager for a nursing home told state surveyors that her nursing home had "dropped the ball" on a resident's nutrition needs when that resident had lost 17 pounds in 75 days; a $1,385,000 settlement was reached. Malnutrition with a loss of 27% of body weight in 15 months led to a $380,000 settlement just before trial. Shocking, isn't it? It literally "pays" to pay attention to nutrition standards of care.

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By Ivy Razmus, RN, PhD, CWOCN

As we continue to develop our evidence on pediatric pressure injuries, more information has been reported about the risk factors nurses are using for clinical judgment. We know that the newborn skin can vary based on gestational age, and nurses use their clinical judgment frequently when compared with using a pressure injury risk assessment scale. It therefore is important to answer this question: “What are nurses using for clinical judgment for assessing pressure injury risk?”