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New Study Link Bed Sores to Patient Mortality

The UCLA Newsroom reported this week on a new clinical study that took a look at how the development of pressure sores at hospitals ultimately impacted the patients who developed those sores. As blog readers likely know, these pressure sores are serious skin breakdowns that often affects patients in hospitals and residents of nursing homes. Also known as pressure ulcers or bed sores, these injuries are almost always preventable with proper care. Re-positioning, grooming, hydration, and proper nutrition are also key components of keeping patients healthy in this regard.

Pressure Sore Consequences
This latest research effort suggests that there is a direct correlation between the development of pressure sores and increased hospitalizations and patient deaths. In other words, these sores are not minor problems that cause inconvenience to patients–they are serious. It is critical that all healthcare providers treat them as such.

This UCLA effort is garnering a wide audience because it is claimed to be the first of its kinds to use data directly from medical records. Researchers analyzed the data to determine the long-term effect on Medicare patients who acquired their pressure sores while in the hospital. More than 51,000 Medicare beneficiaries were randomly tracked during hospitalizations in 2006 and 2007
The findings of the investigation were recently published in the latest issue of the American Geriatrics Society. The results were stark. Those seniors who developed pressure sores while they were in the hospital stayed longer at the hospital overall, were more likely to be readmitted within the month after their release, and were more likely to die at the facility. In other words, the long-term harm of these preventable hospital-acquired injuries are hard to overestimate.

The leader researcher of the effort summarized it thusly; “Hospital-acquired pressure ulcers were shown to be an important risk factor associated with mortality It is incumbent upon hospitals to identify individuals at high risk for these ulcers and implement preventative interventions immediately upon admission.”

This early identification is crucial, because not all patients or nursing home residents are alike. Some are far more at-risk of developing these sores than others. In many ways, this is a good thing, because it allow caregivers to target their most aggressive preventative efforts on those who are most likely to need it. In particular, those with mobility problems or serious ailments that prevent movement are in danger. The study also pointed out that the consequences of pressure-sore development were hardest on those with chronic problems like pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and similar problems.

Pressure Sores & Lawyers
Attorneys working on malpractice cases and neglect cases among the elderly often explain that pressure sores are perhaps the biggest red flag when it comes to identifying inadequate care. These sores should always be prevented; when they are not, reasonable standards of care have not been met. As this study shows, caregivers in all locations know the consequences of these injuries. When they fail to prevent them, the law is there to ensure redress and accountability. The only way to beat the problem is to recognize the issue and force changes.

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