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Care of pressure points and prevention of decubitus ulcer
Prevention of decubitus ulcer in their patients who are bedridden is a major responsibility of nurses working in a hospital.
When we walk or stand on our two feet, the weight of our body is borne by our feet. But when an individual is confined to bed, the weight of his body has to be borne by his back or sides. The skin of the soles of our feet is very tough and thick and it does not break easily in spite of the entire weight of the body being supported by it. The nature has designed the sole of the skin for weight bearing whereas the skin over the back of the body is not. When there is pressure on the skin of the back because of the weight of the body, the skin breaks and an ulcer develops.
Definition of Decubitus ulcer
A decubitus ulcer is a pressure sore resulting from prolonged confinement in bed.
Areas which are likely to be affected.
When a patient lies in supine position, the following areas are vulnerable to pressure sores.
Back of head Shoulder blades Elbows
Base of the spine Buttocks
When a patient is in lateral position the following areas will be affected.
Edge of ear Shoulders Knees Ankles
All or any of the protuberant parts of a bedridden patient may become liable to pressure sores.
Causes of decubitus ulcer
Local or external causes
Pressure : When any body prominence presses upon the bed, the tissues lying between them, get reduced blood supply - If this condition prolongs, the superficial tissues necrosed, skin breaks down and formation of an ulcer takes place.
The following conditions cause prolonged pressure
Leaving a patient in one position for a long time.
Leaving a patient on a bedpan for a long while.
Hard and lumpy mattress
Pressure exerted by splints and plaster casts.
b. Friction :
Friction from bedclothes or any other cause irritates the skin leading to inflammation.
If you lie on a bed sheet, which has a rough seam in the middle of it, for a while, you will notice the impression of the seam on your back.
You will also experience burning sensation and the part will be red in colour.
The following factors cause friction in a patient :
Careless pulling of patient and his linen
Giving and removing bed pan carelessly
Leaving broad crumbs, orange seeds and food particles on the bed
Creases in the bottom sheet
General restlessness of patient
Rubbing two skin surfaces together
c. Moisture : Moisture makes the skin swollen, unhealthy and
The following reasons result in moisture over the pressure areas:
Incontinence of faces and urine
Leaving a patient in wet linen
Heat : Leaving a patient in one position for a long time, the part gets heated.
Lack of cleanliness and irritating substances on the skin. e.g. perspiration, faeces, urine and vaginal discharge.
Predisposing factor for decupitus ulcer
Unconscious, helpless or acutely ill patients
These patients are unable to appreciate the weight of pressure and change their positions
Paralysed patients (Paraplegic and quadriplegic patients). They have lost motor and sensory functions.
Patients with incontinence (spinal injuries)
Very emaciated and malnourished people
Patients with dehydration or oedema g. Very fat people
Patients with disease affecting circulation e.g. heart diseases and anemia
Patients with debilitating diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis
Patients with metabolic disorders. eg. Diabetes
Prevention of decubitus ulcers
Prevent Pressure :
Establish a turning schedule for bedridden patients; turn hourly.
Have a firm cot and foam mattress for bed-ridden patients - use extra pillows, pads and air rings to reduce pressure.
Prevent friction :
When changing position of your patient lift him and do not drag him on to bed.
Keep sheets without wrinkles and seams.
Keep bed clean and free from crumbs.
If patient is restless, protect pressure points with soft pads.
Prevent moisture : a. Keep dressings and bed dry and clean. b. Clean and dry the incontinent patients promptly.
Prevent predisposing causes: a. Improve patient's health by means of good food, ventilation, sunlight and exercises. b. Encourage circulation through massage. c. Have patient to ambulate early.
Observe early signs and symptoms of decubitus ulcers : a. Redness b. Dark discoloration. c. Bruising, d. Tenderness of the area. e. Burning sensation.
Give good care to pressure points : Careful cleaning and massage should be carried out 3 or 4 times a day for all bedridden patients. For some patients, it is necessary to give care as often as every two hours.
A bowl of warm water
Explain procedure to patient - Arrange articles at the bedside.
Screen the bed
Wet the part with soapy hand massage the area in circular movements, so that the tissues under the skin gets increased circulation Remove soap by washing Dry the areas
Apply spirit over the area and massage well. Spirit helps to harden the skin.
Apply lightly dusting powder to keep the part thoroughly dry. Do this treatment to all pressure points.
If patient is incontinent, apply zinc cream instead of spirit and powder. This protects the skin from moisture. Leave patient comfortable after the procedure.
Treatment of decubitus ulcer
Clean ulcers with aseptic precautions - Use antiseptics such as eusole or hydrogen peroxide.
Apply medication ordered by the doctor. eg. Antibiotic ointment, shark liver oil, zinc oxide, or any other topical applications.
Cover with sterile dressings and bandage
Surgical fermentation, ultraviolet rays or heat lamp are helpful in healing
Provide good nutrition
Prevent secondary infections.
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