by Hy-Tape International
Skin tears are a costly and increasingly common condition affecting a large number of patients, particularly older adults. These injuries can be caused by excessive friction, shearing, or blunt forces, causing a partial- or full-thickness wound. Although they are generally considered to be minor injuries, skin tears can lead to more serious complications and exacerbate existing wounds. To ensure that the costs of skin tears do not become too great, and that patients stay healthy, it is critical that health care professionals understand the risks of skin tearing and take preventative action to reduce those risks.1
Skin Tearing Is a Serious Problem
Skin tearing can lead to several complications and be extremely costly. Approximately 1.5 million instances of skin tearing occur each year among elderly residents of health care facilities in the United States alone.2 This makes skin tearing one of the most common causes of wounds; it accounts for 41.5% of all wounds found in elderly care residents according to one study.3 The high prevalence of skin tearing can significantly add to the costs of health care by demanding more time from health care professionals and potentially leading to other complications, such as infections and increased morbidity risks.4
Four Steps to Skin Tear Prevention
To reduce the risk of skin tearing and prevent potential complications and costs, health care professionals should take several key steps. By creating a preventative action plan and following best practices, it is possible to lower the rate of skin tearing and keep patients safe.
- Identify Risk Factors – To prevent skin tears, it is important to understand which patients are at risk. There are several key risk factors for skin tearing, including age, previous injuries, and illness. Both older patients and the very young have more fragile skin and must be treated with care. Patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes may also be at greater risk of skin tearing.4
- Use Gentle Medical Adhesives – Medical adhesives are a major cause of skin tears, with a medical adhesive–related skin injury prevalence between 3.4% and 25% among adult acute care patients.5 In patients with compromised skin, using a silicone-based adhesive remover may also help lower the risk of skin tears.4
- Protect Patients – Another common cause of skin tears is blunt trauma. At-risk patients should be protected from this risk by creating a safer living space. This means ensuring that rooms are well lit and that any sharp or potentially dangerous items are put away. Patients should also be encouraged to always wear appropriate footwear and other clothing that may protect them in the event of a fall.4
- Keep Skin Healthy – An effective skin care regimen can help improve skin integrity, even in at-risk populations. Skin should be regularly cleaned using a pH-balanced solution, whereas harsh soaps should not be used, to avoid drying out the skin. Emollients and moisturizers, along with barrier products or creams, can help improve skin health and protect from damage. It is also important to cleanse incontinent patients regularly because this condition can further damage skin.4,6
These four steps are a good start in protecting patients from the dangers of skin tears. By taking a proactive approach, following skin care best practices, and using gentle medical adhesives, the risk of a patient’s developing a skin tear can be significantly reduced.
1. Vandervord JG, Tolerton SK, Campbell PA, Darke JM. Loch-Wilkinson AV. Acute management of skin tears: a change in practice pilot study. Int Wound J. 2016;13:59–64. doi:10.1111/iwj.12227
CONTENT: Practical guidance on including a skin tear prevention plan in your facility (see ISTAP resources)
2. Baranoski S. Meeting the challenge of skin tears. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005;18(2):74–5.
3. Everett S, Powell T. Skin tears - the underestimated wound. Primary Intention. 1994;2(1):28–30.
4. LeBlanc K, Baranoski S. Skin tears: state of the science: consensus statements for the prevention, prediction, assessment, and treatment of skin tears. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2011;24(9):2–15.
5. Farris MK, Petty M, Hamilton J, Walters S-A, Flynn MA. Medical adhesive-related skin injury prevalence among adult acute care patients. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2015;42(6):589–98. doi:10.1097/won.0000000000000179.
6. Gray M, McNichol L, Nix D. Incontinence-associated dermatitis: progress, promises, and ongoing challenges. J Wound ostomy Continence Nurs. 2016;43(2):188–92.
About the Company
Hy-Tape International offers high-quality adhesive tape and has served the market for 70 years. Tapes are available in strips, patches, and kit rolls giving health care providers a wide range of options for securing dressings and devices. Free product samples are available at www.hytape.com or by calling 1-800-248-0201.
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