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Pressure Area Care


Pressure area care refers to moving the patient into another position to relieve pressure on a part of the body and prevent the development of a pressure ulcer or ‘bed sore’.








These pictures of different types of special 'pressure relieving' mattresses or beds were found on the Web using a Google search.

What is a pressure area

A pressure area refers to an ulcer or sore that develops due to pressure against an area of skin with bone underneath it (eg the bottom or sacrum when sitting in a chair). This reduces the blood flow to that area and the skin and structures underneath begin to die. Sometimes bedsores occur when the patient moves restlessly in bed, causing shearing of the skin. Intensive care patients are particularly at risk when it comes to developing a pressure sore.  This is due to many factors including

  • Not moving for prolonged periods (eg lengthy surgery)
  • Slipping down the bed and trying to sit back up again
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood oxygen level (hypoxaemia)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Some drug treatments
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What is done?

The key method of preventing a pressure sore is to move the patient into a different position on a regular basis.  This helps restore circulation to areas of the body that were compressed when the patient was in the previous position.  Under most conditions the patient will be rolled or moved from side to side and onto their backs at regular intervals.  Unfortunately, pressure area care is not always straightforward as some patients, particularly patients with severe lung and heart problems or head injuries, deteriorate when moved even in the gentlest way.  A number of units will use special beds and or mattresses, which have built-in functions to move the areas of high pressure, within the mattress, on a regular basis.  This means the patient does not have to be moved.  Patients with spinal injuries may not be able to be moved and when allowed, turning or lifting requires special procedures such as a log roll or spinal lift.

What are the risks?

Two or more nurses, depending on the patient’s needs, normally carry out pressure area care.  The patient may experience a brief period of discomfort or anxiety and patients often receive pain relief or sedation to minimise pain and distress.  All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff.

Any questions

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors

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Pressure Area Care Version 1 May 2006 (K Rolls CNC ICCMU) First posted July 2006

The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation.  In addition it reflects Australian intensive care practice which may differ from other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one.  ICCMU attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient.  Please refer to the full disclaimer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2011 15:40