Joann Mercer is a 78-year-old female client who resides in a skilled nursing facility.
Mrs. Mercer has a history of osteoarthritis and hip fracture.
She needs assistance to walk, and spends most of her time in bed or sitting in her wheelchair.
The certified nursing assistant, or CNA, who is taking care of Mrs. Mercer informs you of redness and a shallow ulcer that developed on her sacrum.
You are concerned that Mrs. Mercer has developed a pressure injury.
Pressure injuries, also known as decubitus ulcers, involve damage to the skin or underlying tissue that result from prolonged pressure.
Now, pressure injuries usually appear over bony prominences, especially the sacrum, followed by the heels, since these areas have the thinnest subcutaneous tissue between the bone and the skin.
So the prolonged pressure causes a reduced blood flow to that tissue area, resulting in tissue hypoxia and ischemia, and ultimately leading to necrosis and ulceration.
Most often, pressure injuries develop in clients who aren’t moving about, like those on chronic bedrest or consistently in a wheelchair.
Other factors that can increase the risk for skin injury are thinning of skin and subcutaneous tissue due to advanced age as well as dry skin and thin subcutaneous tissue due to inadequate nutrition and hydration; and prolonged contact to skin irritants like sweat, urine, and feces.
Other important risk factors for pressure injuries are conditions that may impair blood flow, such as heart and lung disease and diabetes mellitus.
Clients should be assessed for the risk of developing a pressure injury using a validated assessment tool like the Braden Scale.
This scale looks at six criteria, which include sensory perception, moisture, activity, mobility, nutrition, and friction or shear.