Clinical Health Updates

Effective methods for preventing pressure ulcers

Clinical Question:
Which interventions are effective for the prevention of pressure ulcers?

Bottom Line:
Given current evidence, using support surfaces, repositioning the patient, optimizing nutritional status, and moisturizing sacral skin are appropriate strategies to prevent pressure ulcers. Although a number of RCTs have evaluated preventive strategies for pressure ulcers, many of them had important methodological limitations. There is a need for well-designed RCTs that follow standard criteria for reporting nonpharmacological interventions and that provide data on cost-effectiveness for these interventions.

Reddy M, Gill SS. Rochon PA. Preventing pressure ulcers: a systematic review. JAMA 2006;296:974-984.

Study Design:
Systematic review

Multiple preventive approaches are used in the management of pressure ulcers. These authors systematically searched multiple evidence-based databases including the Cochrane Registry, bibliographies of identified articles, and scientific meeting abstracts for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating preventive measures for pressure ulcers. No language restrictions were applied. They used standard methods to critically appraise individual RCTs. The search strategy identified 763 citations, from which 59 trials meeting eligibility criteria were selected. The methodologic quality of the RCTs was generally suboptimal. Interventions were grouped into 3 categories: those addressing impairments in (1) mobility, (2) nutrition, and (3) skin health. Effective strategies for those with impaired mobility included the use of support surfaces (mattresses, beds, and cushions), mattress overlays on operating tables, and specialized foam and sheepskin overlays. Frequent repositioning is effective, but the optimal schedule for turning (every 2 vs every 4 hours) is uncertain. Nutritional supplements are beneficial in patients with impaired nutrition. Simple skin moisturizers, specifically to the sacral area, were helpful, but the incremental benefit of other specific topical agents is minimal.