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Patient Safety: Preventing Pressure Ulcers (Bed Sores)

Pressure ulcers (more commonly referred to as "bed sores") are injuries caused by pressure from staying in one position for too long. They can appear on the skin of people who are confined to a bed or chair for long periods of time, are not able to move or change positions, are exposed to moisture (such as sweat) or have poor nutrition. The most susceptible areas of the body are the heels, elbows, back of the head and tailbone.

Patients who develop pressure ulcers while in the hospital have a greater risk for developing infections, and tend to stay in the hospital longer than initially expected. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a Federal agency that furthers health services research that helps improve the quality of health care and promote evidence-based decisionmaking, approximately 60,000 U.S. hospital patients die each year from complications due to pressure ulcers developed during a hospital stay.

At Yale-New Haven Hospital, we have policies and procedures in place to reduce the risk of patients developing pressure ulcers. To make sure patients' skin remains clean, dry and does not breakdown in a way that can lead to pressure ulcers, we:

  • Use special mattresses and cushions
  • Apply special skin care products to high-risk patients
  • Regularly monitor, track and treat pressure ulcers in patients

Our nurses and staff are trained to help keep all patients—especially those at the highest risk—from developing pressure ulcers. You can help reduce your risk of pressure ulcers too. Whenever possible, try to:

  • Change positions at least every two hours
  • Use pillow or padding
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep skin clean and dry
  • Exercise regularly

If you cannot manage these tasks on your own, ask your caregivers for assistance. If you suspect that you have a pressure ulcer, tell your doctor or nurse right away.

For more information on pressure ulcer prevention, visit:

National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel

Communication is Key

Many of the tactics and tips above rely on clear communication between you and your caregivers.

If you need help communicating, have a family member or friend listen with you when a diagnosis, treatment, test result or discharge plan is being explained. Translation services and hearing-impaired assistance are also available any time of day or night, at no cost to you.

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