Did you know that just 30 minutes of pressure on one part of the body is enough to cause a pressure injury? As part of Worldwide STOP Pressure Injury Day, pressure injury expert and Queensland Health podiatrist Peta McKay explains what pressure injuries are and how healthcare workers can reduce the risk of pressure injuries to their patients.
What are pressure injuries?
Peta says pressure injuries can also be referred to as pressure ulcers or bed sores, but that "injury" is the clinically correct term. 'Pressure injuries are the result of tissue damage caused either by unrelieved pressure or shear force. While anyone can get a pressure injury, those with restricted mobility in hospital or in care are more at risk.'
'They can happen anywhere on the body, are extremely painful and can take a long time to heal. Generally, pressure injuries develop on bony parts of the body touching the surface like the shoulders, buttocks, ankles and elbows.'
Signs of pressure injuries
Identifying a potential or developing pressure injury is vital in preventing further damage to the skin and tissue. Initially, pressure injuries might cause:
- painful areas
- red/purple/blue skin
- dry or shiny areas of skin
- warm or cool skin.
'A pressure injury might initially look like a minor issue, but serious damage can be hiding under the surface of the skin which can become infected and cause scarring,' Peta says.
Working together to prevent pressure injuries
'Pressure injuries can delay a patient’s recovery and discharge by weeks or even months, so preventing or stopping them from causing serious damage is in everyone’s best interest.'
Presenting at our Patient Safety and Quality Education Session today, Peta advised to prevent pressure injuries from developing healthcare workers should:
- encourage patients to make small movements of the body and shift pressure
- ensure the patient’s bedding is kept dry
- tell patients to let staff know if they experience unusual or unexplained pain in their heels, ankles or toes
- show patients how best to position the bed as per the Pressure Injury Prevention (PIP) poster.
Clinical Excellence Queensland’s Pressure Injury Prevention program has contributed to a reduction in hospital-acquired pressure injuries from 14% in 2003 to 3% in 2018, which equates to preventing pressure injuries in 67,213 overnight inpatients.
Visit the Pressure injury prevention page to learn more about this type of injury.