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How Pressure Sores Turn Deadly

Often when a patient is bedridden, unable to move, or confined to a wheelchair, pressure sores begin to build up along their skin. Appearing initially as bruising or blisters, pressure sores – or bedsores, as they are sometimes referred to as – can steadily build up until they damage skin, muscles, joints, tendons, and even bones. They are common in nursing homes where residents are not properly attended to or do not have many options to get up and move around. In the most serious cases, pressure sores can result in life-threatening medical conditions.

What Causes Pressure Sores?

Pressure sores are caused by continuous pressure on the skin that decreases blood flow and makes it more susceptible to damage. Pressure sores can develop through:

  • Sitting or lying in bed too long: Pressure sores primarily occur due to consistent pressure, which can cause a bed, chair, or shoulder rest to steadily dig into the skin. This is more likely to occur in areas of the body with less fat and muscle.
  • Friction: If a resident has fragile skin and then rubs against a rough surface, such as a sheet or mattress, then friction can cause blisters to form along the skin.
  • Shearing: Constantly moving in bed or rubbing against a hard object can cause the skin to become torn and damage, resulting in a pressure sore.

States of Severity

Pressure sores are classified based on severity and move through four different stages:

  • Stage 1: The skin is reddened and does not turn white when touched but is still intact. The sore may be painful and may feel tender, soft, warm, firm, or cold in comparison to healthy skin.
  • Stage 2: The skin has now broken open, appearing like a blister. These shallow wounds may appear red or pinkish and may be accompanied by blood.
  • Stage 3: These deep wounds extend into the body’s fat and will appear as yellow craters.
  • Stage 4: Pressure sores that reach this stage will feature crusty, black tissue around the wound. Upon inspection, the view may see muscles, tendons, or bones in the wound.

Infections and Complications

If not properly treated, pressure sores can have serious complications, including:

  • Cellulitis: This is an infection of the skin and soft tissues that can cause inflammation
  • Bone and joint infections: Infection from pressure sores can travel into joints and bones, damaging cartilage and tissues and reducing the function of joints and limbs.
  • Sepsis: Pressure sores can lead to sepsis – a life-threatening response of the body to an infection.

Where Do Pressure Sores Occur?

The location of a pressure sore depends on a patient’s default position. Bedridden patients who are constantly lying down may form pressure sores along the back and sides of their heads, behind or on their ears, between their shoulder blades, and along their lower extremities, from the lower back to the heels of their feet. Residents in wheelchairs also risk developing pressure sores, which can form along the spine and shoulder blades, in addition to the backs of their arms, tailbone, buttocks, and legs. If a resident reports pain or discomfort in any of these areas, then the region should be inspected by a medical professional.

Sadly, pressure sores are often a sign of neglect and may result in the nursing home being liable for compensation. If your loved one is suffering from untreated pressure sores, then you should not hesitate to contact the proper authorities and an attorney. The New Mexico nursing home abuse attorneys at Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP can assist in launching a detailed investigation into your case and advocate for full compensation. Contact us at (903) 207-5526 to schedule a free consultation.