In September 2014, the Indiana State Department of Health reported that severe bedsores (Stage III and Stage IV) are on the rise at the state’s clinics and hospitals. In its recently released medical errors report, the state claims this number is up by one-half over the total number of all medical mistake-related cases in 2012. This alarming increase represents pressure sores (decubitus ulcers) acquired after the patient’s admission.
The Indiana medical error report of 2012 indicated 30 known cases of advanced stage bedsores throughout the state’s medical facilities. In a study conducted in 2014, the number had risen to 45 reported cases in the subsequent year. The statistics in the last eight years compiled by the Department of Health indicates that pressure sores continue to be the most reported incidents of medical errors in seven of those years.
Statistics managed by Health and Human Services show that errors by medical staff remain one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., ranking third after heart disease and cancer. For eight years, the Indiana State Department of Health has required hospitals and clinics report serious adverse events in their facilities. These include hospitals, birthing centers, abortion clinics and ambulatory surgery centers.
Reports accumulated from 293 Indiana medical facilities indicate there were 111 medical errors in 2013. When compared all previously reported years, this number increased sharply. Up until 2013, the total number of decubitus ulcers (bedsores) acquired after patient was admitted ranks first in medical errors, averaged 32 cases every year. However, in the following year that number spiked to 45 incidences of Stage III and Stage IV bedsores.
Developing a Bedsore: A Process That Involves Ongoing Inferior Care
Individuals can develop a bedsore on any part of the skin, which will eventually crack open due to lack of movement over an extended time. Commonly, the high majority of advancing pressure sores are the result of poor health care provided in hospitals and other medical facilities. Without proper treatment, severe decubitus ulcers can lead to the victim’s death.
Most pressure sores occur at specific pressure points on the patient’s body that make continuous contact with the bed, chair or floor. Common areas include the heels, hips, spine, shoulders, buttocks, sacrum and back of the legs, arms, head and elbows. Immobility of these body areas tend to increase pressure to the skin, which can easily cause severe skin cell damage as a result of insufficient blood supply to the area.
In its early stages, a bedsore can be an unexpected occurrence in any patient as tissue becomes reddened in appearance at affected skin areas. If the pressure to the skin is not relieved, the pressure sore can quickly become worse and begin to ulcerate. Without attention, the affected skin will eventually blister, crack and finally open up, making it far more difficult to treat.
Advanced Pressure Sores: An Example Of A Systematic Breakdown
Pressure ulcers in advanced stages can quickly injure the patient’s muscles, joints, bones and tendons. Many Stage III and Stage IV decubitus ulcers advance into a blood-borne infection, leading to potentially life-threatening sepsis. In many elderly individuals, late stage sepsis can create septic shock and eventual death.
In nearly every case, preventing a bedsore is easy and manageable. However, recovery requires ongoing attention by a competent individual providing the patient proper care, good hygiene and clean bedding.
Reducing Pressure– And Pressure Ulcers In Immobile Patients
Hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities need to develop and implement better treatment strategies for patients to minimize the potential of advancing an ongoing bedsore. Important strategies would include:
- Repositioning – The patient needs to be repositioned in their bed, chair or wheelchair at least every one to two hours. The caregivers can use proven methods for lifting and repositioning the patient’s body to reduce the potential of shearing (skin tearing) and friction during movement.
- Support Surfaces – Successfully management strategies in caring for patients with Stage I and Stage II decubitus ulcers should include support surfaces. These include special cushions, mattresses and beds that allow the patient to recline in appropriate positions as a way to relieve pressure to commonly affected areas. These efforts can protect the skin and allow the sore to heal.
With the proper diagnosis and high-quality health care, bedsores (decubitus ulcers, pressure sores and pressure ulcers) are highly treatable, resulting in good recovery. Hospitals, medical centers and long-term health care facilities need to implement better tactics to avoid medical errors to minimize the prevalence of bedsores in their patients.