Munson Health
Pressure Sores

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by Wood D

(Pressure Ulcers; Bed Sores; Decubitus Ulcers)


Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of pressure sores include:


Treatment aims to relieve pressure on the area, heal the wound, avoid complications, and prevent future pressure sores. In many cases, a caregiver will provide care for your pressure sores.
Treatment includes:


  • Avoid placing any weight or pressure on the wound.
  • Change position at least every two hours, around the clock.
  • Maintain good body alignment.
  • Make sure bedclothes are clean and without wrinkles.
  • If needed, use a special mattress.
  • Use a lift sheet to move the patient rather than pulling the bedsheet or the patient.


Clean soiled skin after each bowel movement and urination. Wash with mild soap and warm water. Rinse well. Pat dry. Do not rub. Apply lotion as recommended by the doctor.

Wound Care

You or your caregiver will be taught how to tend to the wound. Some basic instructions include:
  • Clean the sore, remove dead tissue, and apply a dressing.
  • Do not put anything else on the ulcer.
  • Wash hands before and after performing wound care. Wear disposable gloves.
  • Clean the wound every time the bandage is changed.
  • You may need to take pain medication a half hour or hour before dressing changes.


Eat a well-balanced meal. Your doctor may recommend vitamins, minerals, or supplements.

Surgery and Other Procedures

The doctor may surgically remove dead tissue. Skin grafts may be needed. In some situations, electrotherapy may be used to stimulate blood flow and promote healing.

Other Therapies

Phototherapy using ultraviolet light may have some benefits when used in combination with other treatments. In some, it has been shown to reduce healing time.


Most pressure ulcers can be prevented. Suggestions include:
  • Follow these tips when repositioning:
    • Change position in bed at least every two hours or, in a wheelchair, at least hourly. If able to move yourself, shift position every 15 minutes.
    • Maintain good body alignment.
    • Talk to your doctor about whether you should elevate the head of your bed.
    • Find a sitting or lying position that is 30° toward one side or the other, but not squarely on the hip.
    • Place a pillow under your calves to keep the heels off the mattress.
    • Place a pillow between the knees.
    • Do not use donut-ring cushions, which can cut off circulation.
  • Talk to the doctor about using:
    • A special foam mattress designed to reduce the risk of pressure sores
    • A mechanical mattress or overlay that inflates and deflates to change the pressure on the body
    • Sheepskin overlay
  • Use a special cushion for a wheelchair.
  • Wear special pads to protect skin that is resting against braces and other devices.
  • When moving someone, lift rather than drag.
    • Use assistive devices, such as transfer boards and mechanical lifts.
    • Try placing a sheepskin under a body part to decrease friction.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • Do not massage bony areas.
  • If incontinent, use a protective cream on skin that may come in contact with urine or stool. Frequently check the patient, and do not let stool or urine remain for extended periods of time.
  • Check the skin at least daily for signs of pressure problems.
  • Keep sheets clean and free of wrinkles.
  • Maintain good nutrition.


American Academy of Family Physicians

National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel



Canadian Family Physician

Health Canada



Pressure ulcer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 22, 2013. Accessed December 16, 2013.

Pressure ulcer category/staging illustrations. National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel website. Available at: Accessed December 16, 2013.

5/27/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance McInnes E, Jammali-Blasi A, Bell-Syer S, Dumville J, Cullum N. Support surfaces for pressure ulcer prevention. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(4):CD001735.

11/25/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Moore ZE, Webster J. Dressings and topical agents for preventing pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 18;8.

8/11/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Chen C, Hou WH, et al. Phototherapy for treating pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;7:CD009224.


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