Bed sores, also known as decubitus or pressure ulcers, affect nearly 2.5 million people annually in the United States. In fact, there are roughly 17,000 bed sore lawsuits filed each year.
A bed sore is an ulcer that develops due to extended periods of friction and pressure on the skin. Although the ulcer is only visible on the skin at first, over time the wound can grow to affect the tissue and muscle.
Common Bed Sore Locations
A bed sore can develop anywhere that spends extended periods of time under pressure, subject to friction, or exposed to excessive moisture. As the name suggests, patients who develop these sores are those who spend extended periods of time in bed. The most common locations for a bed sore are:
A bed sore can worsen over time and eventually lead to permanent damage of the skin and surrounding tissue. A bed sore develops in four stages.
There is visible redness on the affected area. The texture of the skin may become rough and hardened.
A blister appears on the skin.
The tissue surrounding the bed sore is damaged. The skin is red and peeling.
During this stage, the patient’s tendons and bone are visible.
The physical appearance of the bed sore is not the only thing that changes as the wound worsens. As the patient moves through the four stages, their level of pain and potential for future bed sores increase as well. Reaching Stage 4 may possibly result in a bed sore lawsuit.
Anyone can develop a bed sore, but certain populations are more at risk than others. Medical facilities use the “Braden Scale” to determine the patient’s risk of developing a bed sore. The higher the number, the higher the risk. The lower the number, the lower the risk.
Elderly patients are among the most vulnerable to developing bed sores. Due to decreased mobility, and sometimes a lack of medical attention, elderly patients develop bed sores at alarming rates.
Bed sores have unfortunately become a common occurrence for bed-bound hospital patients. So much so, that hospitals keep wound care specialists on staff to detect and treat patients’ bed sores.
Make sure to speak with your hospital’s wound care physician if you suspect that you or a loved one has developed a bed sore. Having as much information as possible about your condition will be crucial if you file a bed sore lawsuit.
The goal of treatment is to prevent the growth and recurrence of a bed sore. Typical steps taken to avoid a bed sore are:
- Turning the patient every two hours
- Applying bandages over the affected area(s)
- Applying cream to reduce friction
- Placing patient on Alternating Pressure Air Mattress
Another key to providing proper prevention and treatment is having thorough and accurate documentation. Nurses and attending physicians should be documenting each time they turn the patient and the current condition of the skin. If the patient has already developed a bed sore, the records should accurately describe the sore, measurements should be taken and pictures as well. Further, there should be documentation of the care that was provided. Inconsistent and/or incomplete charting can unfortunately lead to lapses in care and can be the foundation of a claim for negligence in a bed sore lawsuit.
What Happens If A Bed Sore Is Left Untreated?
Leaving a bed sore untreated will inevitably cause significant pain for the patient which could have been avoided. Ignoring a bed sore can also lead to long-term health consequences, even death. Consequences include:
- Sepsis: An open wound is vulnerable to bacteria and infections. If the infection reaches the patient’s bloodstream, this can cause eventually organ failure.
- Cancer: Some bed sores cases have been linked with the development of a skin cancer known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).
- Tissue and Bone Injuries: A patient’s bed sore can reach the tissue and/or bone during stage 3 or 4. If the tissue and bone are exposed to an infection, this can limit their ability to function after the bed sore is healed.
Bed sores are preventable with appropriate prevention and treatment. In fact, the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has designated stage 3 and stage 4 decubitus ulcers as “never events” that should not happen with appropriate care.
If you or a family member developed a bed sore because of the negligence of hospital nurses or doctors, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Call Bonner Law at 1-800-4MEDMAL for a free consultation.
Michael P. Bonner has over 30 years of experience representing clients in medical malpractice litigation.