Pressure ulcers (sometimes referred to as bedsores or pressure sores) are a frequent, costly, and potentially life-threatening complication of spinal cord injury. They can have a major impact on the quality of life for people with spinal injuries. Prevention, early detection, and treatment are key.
Today (Thursday 17 November) is International Stop the Pressure Day, a global awareness day to share knowledge about pressure ulcers to a wider audience and help prevent them.
Tom Hartigan, a personal injury and medical negligence solicitor from our Salisbury team, specialises in helping and supporting people with spinal injuries.
Here he outlines some of the key facts about pressure ulcers:
What is a pressure ulcer?
Pressure ulcers can happen around skin or underlying tissue that has been damaged due to the loss of blood flow. Your skin needs a constant source of blood, otherwise it can become infected and even stop working completely.
For people with a spinal cord injury, and wheelchair users generally, the nerves in the skin which allow you to feel pain and temperature often no longer work. The danger is that a pressure sore can develop without you knowing.
Lack of movement of paralysed limbs can also decrease circulation, as sufficient blood flow and nutrients cannot reach all areas effectively. This leads to skin cells dying, and pressure sores developing.
How do you prevent pressure sores?
Regularly checking the condition of the skin is vital. For people with decreased sensation in paralysed limbs, you need to actively ensure their skin is not becoming infected or reddening, which is the start of pressure sores developing.
Pressure sores are more likely to develop in bony areas, which include the lower back and buttocks, as well as the heels, ankles, and toes.
For people with spinal cord injuries who are unable to check all their skin areas themselves, it is important they are helped to check for any signs of skin breakdown. This may also include being regularly turned, to avoid too much pressure on vulnerable areas.
Tom Hartigan says:
“It is incredibly frustrating that we continue to see numerous cases of pressure sores developing in spinal cord injured clients. Such cases often arise from simple errors, such as failing to check or turn patients in hospitals, or care homes. This is literally adding insult to injury. Prevention is the key, and can be achieved with regular, routine skin checks.
“We are delighted to see the Spinal Injuries Association supporting this vital pressure ulcer prevention campaign. Pressure sores are entirely preventable, and we support all efforts to raise awareness of this issue, and eradicate these injuries, less they continue to cause further pain and suffering in spinal cord injury patients, and other vulnerable people.”
The Spinal Injuries Association has shared stories from people about their own experiences with pressure ulcers and how it has impacted their lives.
If you or a loved one have concerns about the care you are receiving in a hospital or a care home, you might be able to make a medical negligence claim for compensation. Contact us today on 0800 884 0777 or online for a free, no-obligation chat with our friendly legal experts.