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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

Understanding Pressure Ulcers: Diagnosis and Management

Aldughayfiq, B.; Ashfaq, F.; Jhanjhi, N.Z.; Humayun, M. YOLO-Based Deep Learning Model for Pressure Ulcer Detection and Classification. Healthcare 2023, 11, 1222.

A pressure ulcer, also known as a bed sore or decubitus ulcer, is a significant medical condition that arises when prolonged pressure on the skin causes damage to the underlying tissues. These ulcers can be the result of various factors, including moisture, friction, immobility, sensory loss, and certain medical conditions.

To aid healthcare professionals in assessing and treating pressure ulcers, the national Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) has established six stages to classify them:

  • Stage I and Deep Tissue Injury (DTI) are initial stages of tissue damage. In these stages, the skin remains intact, but there is non-blanchable redness, which indicates the presence of tissue damage. This redness is a warning sign that should not be ignored, as it signifies the need for immediate attention and care. Prompt intervention and appropriate treatment can help prevent further progression of the injury and promote the healing process.

  • Stage II is characterized by partial thickness skin loss that involves the epidermis, dermis, or both layers. At this stage, the ulcer site may present as an abrasion, a blister, a shallow crater, or a combination of these elements. The affected area may display redness, swelling, and tenderness, indicating the ongoing tissue damage. It is crucial to closely monitor and provide appropriate care to prevent further complications and promote healing.

  • Stage III is characterized by full thickness skin loss, indicating damage or necrosis of the subcutaneous tissue. This damage may extend down to the underlying fascia, but does not penetrate through it. The ulcer site presents itself as a deep crater, which may or may not exhibit undermining of the surrounding tissue.

  • Stage IV ulcers, the most severe type, extend beyond the skin and penetrate into deeper tissues, reaching down to the bone at the base of the ulcer bed. These ulcers can manifest with additional complications such as undermining, tunneling, and the presence of necrotic tissue, which further exacerbates the severity of the condition and the challenges in wound healing.

  • Unstageable pressure ulcers, also known as stage 3 or 4 pressure sores, are characterized by the presence of necrotic tissue that obscures the base of the wound, making it difficult to assess its severity and depth. This necrotic tissue can consist of slough or eschar, which hinders the healing process and requires appropriate wound management and treatment interventions.

The Importance of Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

Common areas prone to bed sore development are bony prominences and body parts covered by orthopedic devices or straps. These areas include the back of the head, buttocks, sacrum, hips, and heels. However, accurately identifying Stage I wounds in individuals with dark skin color may pose challenges based solely on color changes.

Understanding the different stages of pressure ulcers is crucial as it enables proper diagnosis and treatment, preventing further complications and promoting healing. Healthcare professionals should therefore carefully assess and document pressure ulcer staging in order to properly plan and implement the best care for individuals at risk. Careful wound assessment should include visual inspection, palpation of adjacent tissue, and evaluation of underlying structures with a probe or ruler. In addition, imaging techniques such as x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI may be used to evaluate more complicated wounds.

Promoting Wound Healing Through Nutrition and Hydration

Treatment of pressure ulcers depends on the stage and underlying causes. It usually consists of a combination of wound care, debridement, nutrition support, offloading, infection control, pain management, and other therapies to promote healing. Additionally, appropriate follow-up should be done with frequent wound assessment as well as monitoring of systemic health status and addressing any underlying causes.

Educating on Preventive Techniques

It is also important for healthcare professionals to provide adequate education for individuals and caregivers on proper prevention techniques as well as wound management strategies. Strategies to prevent pressure ulcer development include regular repositioning, use of specialized mattresses and cushions, skin care, and nutrition assessment.

Furthermore, health promotion activities such as exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management should be included in pressure ulcer prevention and management.

In conclusion, healthcare professionals should be aware of the importance of properly diagnosing and treating pressure ulcers. They should assess patients thoroughly and provide appropriate treatment plans tailored to their individual needs. Equally important is educating individuals on preventive techniques such as regular repositioning, use of special mattresses and cushions, skin care, and nutrition assessment. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and education at the forefront of healthcare delivery, pressure ulcers can be better managed to promote healing and improve quality of life.

The Role of Regular Assessment in Wound Healing

Good wound management practices also involve educating patients on how to recognize signs of infection such as changes in color or drainage from a wound site. Patients should be advised to contact their healthcare provider in case of any unusual signs and symptoms. Adequate wound healing also requires regular assessment of the wound, timely treatment when needed, and debridement when indicated. Furthermore, patients should be given appropriate instructions on how to regularly cleanse the wound site using a mild soap and water solution. Lastly, preventive measures such as good nutrition and proper hydration can help promote wound healing. By employing these techniques, pressure ulcers can be better managed and prevented to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.


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  2. Gorecki, C., Brown, J. M., Nelson, E. A., Briggs, M., Schoonhoven, L., Dealey, C., ... & Nixon, J. (2009). Impact of pressure ulcers on quality of life in older patients: a systematic review. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57(7), 1175-1183.

  3. Pieper, B. (2009). Pressure ulcers: prevalence, incidence, and implications for the future. Advances in skin & wound care, 22(4), 212-218.

  4. Kottner, J., & Balzer, K. (2010). Do pressure ulcer risk assessment scales improve clinical practice?. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 3, 103.

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