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Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers

Aged Care

Updated 25-01-2024

Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores or pressure sores, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. They often affect individuals who are bedbound or immobile and can develop quickly, leading to serious complications if not addressed efficiently. Good management strategies can both prevent and promote the healing of pressure ulcers.

Understanding Pressure Ulcers

Before diving into prevention and treatment strategies, it is critical to understand the factors that lead to the development of pressure ulcers. These skin lesions are caused by factors such as:

  • Sustained Pressure: When the skin and underlying tissues are caught between a bone and a surface such as a mattress or wheelchair, blood flow to the area is reduced, causing tissue damage.
  • Shear: This occurs when the skin moves in one direction while the underlying bone moves in the opposite direction, which can occur when a patient is sliding down in a bed or chair.
  • Friction: Friction can damage the outer protective layer of the skin, making it more susceptible to injury.
  • Moisture: Excess moisture can weaken skin, making the skin more prone to injury from pressure, shear, or friction.

Identifying individuals at risk is key to prevention. Those most at risk include the elderly, individuals with spinal cord injuries, diabetics, and patients who are sedentary due to illness.

Proactive Measures to Prevent Pressure Ulcers

Effective prevention of pressure ulcers integrates a variety of strategies which include:

Regular Skin Inspections

Frequent skin evaluations can help detect early signs of pressure injury. Areas to focus on are bony prominences such as heels, ankles, hips, and the tailbone. Any changes in skin coloration, temperature, or texture should be documented and monitored.

Nutritional Support

A balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, particularly vitamin C and zinc, can enhance the skin's resilience and aid in tissue repair. Adequate hydration is also vital in maintaining skin integrity.

Repositioning and Mobilisation

Regularly changing a patient’s position to relieve pressure on vulnerable areas is paramount. A repositioning schedule is recommended every two hours for bedbound patients, and every hour for those in chairs.

Support Surfaces

Utilizing the appropriate support surfaces such as specialized mattresses and cushions can distribute weight more evenly and reduce pressure on certain areas of the body.


Maintaining dry and clean skin is essential. Use moisture barriers when necessary and avoid massaging over bony prominences to reduce the risk of tissue destruction.

Treatment Approaches for Established Pressure Ulcers

Once a pressure ulcer has developed, the focus shifts to treatment and healing. Treatment protocols should encompass:

Wound Assessment and Debridement

A comprehensive assessment by a healthcare professional is the first step. Depending on the ulcer's stage, debridement may be necessary to remove dead tissue and promote the growth of new, healthy tissue.

Infection Control

Keeping the wound clean and monitoring for signs of infection is critical. Infected pressure ulcers can lead to further complications, including sepsis.

Advanced Wound Dressings

A variety of dressings are available that can manage moisture, protect from infection, and promote healing in the wound bed.

Pressure Relief

Continued pressure relief remains essential even after the pressure ulcer has formed. Continued use of support surfaces and regular repositioning will prevent aggravation of the wound.

Surgical Intervention

In some cases, particularly for severe or non-healing ulcers, surgical repair such as flap surgery may be necessary.


The battle against pressure ulcers is one of diligence and continuous care. Health professionals and caregivers in Australia must stay informed about the most current practices in prevention and treatment. Through comprehensive care strategies that include regular assessment, a focus on nutrition and skin care, and the use of advanced treatment techniques, it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and enhance the quality of life for at-risk patients. With a proactive and knowledgeable approach, the healing outcomes for pressure ulcers can be considerably improved, preventing long-term complications and promoting overall wellbeing.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow care workers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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