Nashville Bedsore and Pressure Ulcer Lawyers
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are wounds to the skin caused by applying constant pressure to the same areas for an extended period. Bedsores typically develop when a bedridden patient remains in the same position for too long, creating lesions where the body’s weight rests. The highest risk of bedsores occurs in disabled and elderly patients who are partially or completely immobile, and who rely on caregivers to help them change their position and disperse their body weight.
Unfortunately, many U.S. medical facilities are severely understaffed and unable to provide each patient with sufficient care and attention, meaning that many immobile patients are not moved as often as they should be. When patients begin to develop bedsores, the sores may go unnoticed for days or weeks due to the staff’s failure to provide regular, thorough examinations. These circumstances can take a case of bedsores from a minor discomfort to a life-threatening tissue infection.
When do stage 4 bedsores occur?
If left untreated, bedsores will develop from small skin lesions into massive areas of deteriorated skin, often leading to life-threatening infections. The four stages of bedsores develop as follows:
Stage 1: A reddened or discolored area forms on the upper level of the skin, and may be itchy or painful to the touch.
With timely treatment, a stage 1 bedsore can heal in a day or two.
Stage 2: A blister or open sore occurs, often penetrating the deepest layer of skin and leaking pus.
A sore at this stage may heal within a few days or a few weeks, depending on its size.
Stage 3: The sore may become infected at this stage, with skin or tissue beginning to turn black or gray as it deteriorates.
A stage 3 bedsore generally takes several months to completely heal.
Stage 4: The most serious stage, bedsores at stage 4 are characterized by the sore deepening all the way to the muscles or bones.
At this stage, a bedsore infection is likely to be life-threatening. A patient may take months or even years to completely recover from a stage 4 bedsore.
Are hospitals and nursing homes responsible for stage 4 bedsores occurring in their patients?
Hospitals and nursing homes owe a duty of care to their patients, which means that they are reasonably responsible for the health and well-being of the patients they agree to care for. When a medical facility allows its patients to develop severe, preventable injuries through caregivers’ neglect, the facility may be held liable for the patient’s suffering.
When it comes to bedsores, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, it is much easier to prevent bedsores from occurring than to correct them after they have developed. For this reason, hospitals and nursing homes typically have thorough pressure injury prevention policies.
These bedsore prevention policies often require the nursing staff to:
- Assess the patient’s risk for pressure injuries upon admission. This is known as BRADEN assessment. Bedsores are generally preventable even in patients who are at a high risk of developing bedsores.
- Develop a pressure injury plan for each patient. The prevention plan typically requires turning or repositioning the patient every 2 hours and providing specialty equipment/beds that are designed to relieve pressure on the sacrum and other bony prominences.
- Implement the prevention plan. Staffing shortages, a lack of education about bedsores, and confusion about facility best practices are some of the reasons that nursing staff fail to implement their bedsore prevention policies.
- Regularly assess the patient for the development of any bedsores. These assessments are often performed by specialty wound care nurses.
When a medical facility fails to follow its own pressure injury prevention policies, it may be responsible for causing a patient’s bedsores.
Can a bed sore infection spread to the bone?
Yes, a bedsore infection can spread to the bone, resulting in a life-threatening condition known as osteomyelitis. Stage 4 bedsores (the most severe stage) are most likely to lead to osteomyelitis and other life-threatening infections.
Treatments for osteomyelitis typically start with intravenous antibiotics or antifungal medications. If these do not eliminate the infection, a physician may order hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the patient is placed in an oxygen-rich, high-pressure air environment to facilitate healing. This therapy increases the oxygen flowing through the blood, which can trigger the healing of a serious bone infection.
Treatment for Bedsores
Stage 1:Relieve pressure:
Change positions often (every 2 hours) and use special mattresses or cushions.
Care for skin: Clean gently with mild soap and water, keep dry, and apply moisturizers.
Stage 2: Same as stage 1, plus: Use wound dressings:
Special dressings like hydrocolloid or alginate protect the wound and help healing.
Stages 3 and 4: Same as stages 1 and 2, plus: Remove dead tissue:
This is called debridement and can be done with a scalpel, water jet, or other methods.
Consider negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT): This therapy uses a vacuum seal to draw fluid from the wound and promote healing.
Surgery might be needed: In severe cases, surgery can close the wound or repair damaged tissue.
Eat a healthy diet: Protein and vitamins are essential for healing.
Manage pain: Pain relievers can help with discomfort.
Treat infections: Antibiotics might be prescribed if the wound is infected.
I or a loved one have developed stage 4 bedsores while in a hospital, nursing home, or care facility. What should I do?
Call the Nashville medical malpractice lawyers and Tennessee bedsore attorneys at DRS Law right away. Our experienced attorneys will evaluate your bedsore claim and provide expert advice on the next steps for your case.