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Clinical Negligence

Pressure Sores

Pressure Sores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. They usually affect people confined to bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time.

Pressure sores can affect any part of the body that’s put under pressure. They’re most common on bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine.

They often develop gradually, but can sometimes form in a few hours.

Early symptoms

Early symptoms of a pressure sore include:

  • part of the skin becoming discoloured – people with pale skin tend to get red patches, while people with dark skin tend to get purple or blue patches
  • discoloured patches not turning white when pressed
  • a patch of skin that feels warm, spongy or hard
  • pain or itchiness in the affected area

A doctor or nurse may call a pressure sore at this stage a category 1 pressure sore or ulcer.

Later symptoms

The skin may not be broken at first, but if the pressure sore gets worse, it can form:

  • an open wound or blister – a category 2 pressure ulcer
  • a deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin – a category 3 pressure ulcer
  • a very deep wound that may reach the muscle and bone – a category 4 pressure ulcer

Treatments for Pressure Sores

Treatments for pressure sores depend on how severe they are. For some people, they’re an inconvenience that needs basic nursing care. For others, they can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications, such as blood poisoning.

Ways to stop pressure sores getting worse and help them heal include:

  • applying dressings that speed up the healing process and may help to relieve pressure
  • moving and regularly changing your position
  • using specially designed static foam mattresses or cushions, or dynamic mattresses and cushions that have a pump to provide a constant flow of air
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • a procedure to clean the wound and remove damaged tissue (debridement)

Surgery to remove damaged tissue and close the wound is sometimes used in the most serious cases.

Care planning

In a hospital or care home a written care plan, for anyone assessed as being at high risk of developing a pressure sore, should be undertaken and reviewed regularly. The plan should focus on the actions needed to help prevent a pressure sore from developing, taking into account:

  • The results of the risk and skin assessment.
  • The need for any extra pressure relief, for example a high-specification foam mattress or cushion.
  • The person’s mobility and ability to change position unaided.
  • Any other conditions.
  • The person’s own views and wishes, including whether they are able to understand the risks and make an informed decision. If not, use of the Mental Capacity Act may be necessary.

Need Help?

If you or your loved one has developed a pressure sore whilst in hospital or care home then get in touch with us today. We have a specialist team who understand the issues and care about those who need help. Call us today FREE on 0800 470 2009 or email Dr Victoria Handley on

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