Bedsores are preventable and treatable, but if left untreated they can lead to more serious medical complications. We explain what bedsores are, how they can be treated and what to do if you or a loved one has received negligent treatment of bedsores.
What is a Bedsore and How Do They Happen?
Bedsores (also commonly known as pressure sores and pressure ulcers) occur when someone has been restricted to a bed or chair for a long period of time, typically as a result of illness. The sores or ulcers form relatively quickly as a result of skin being placed under significant pressure. This pressure ultimately causes the blood supply to be restricted or blocked in certain areas of the body.
Bedsores can develop over a matter of hours and are typically found in the head, back, elbows, heels or ankles.
How Are Bedsores Treated?
Treatment for bedsores and ulcers will depend on how serious they are.
Early symptoms include:
- discolouration of the skin
- pain or itchiness in the infected area
- an area of skin which feels spongey or hard
There are four stages of severity to bedsores and ulcers. If the bedsore or ulcer is not treated appropriately, it is almost certain to get worse. If left to deteriorate, the general symptoms are likely to progress into:
- an open wound
- blistering of the skin
- a deep wound that may reach deeper layers of skin and, in some instances, muscle and bone.
Should the bedsore or ulcer worsen and fail to heal even with treatment, in some very extreme circumstances surgery may be required.
Surgery entails cleaning and closing up the wound and consequently minimising the risk of (further) infection. It is one of the last resorts in an attempt to minimise the effects of bedsores or ulcers. However, as most patients who receive surgery are already in poor health, and have been for quite some time, the procedure itself can be very challenging to the patient both mentally and physically.
Who Is at High Risk of Bedsores?
People who are more likely to develop bedsores or ulcers include those over 70 years of age, those with a poor diet, those confined to a bed or chair as a result of surgery or illness or anyone with a condition that inadvertently causes blood problems (e.g. diabetes).
Bedsores and ulcers generally develop as a result of minimal movement but can be avoided entirely. One of the best preventative methods is to continually move or adjust the person's position to avoid any blockages in the blood flow.
What Obligations Do Medical Staff Have?
Anyone who is considered to be at a higher risk of developing bedsores or ulcers must receive a pressure ulcer risk assessment within six hours of admission to hospital or a care or nursing home that provides medical care. Where this assessment is not carried out, or not carried out correctly, complications can arise. Bedsores and ulcers can potentially progress into more serious illnesses, such as blood poisoning. However for most people, bedsores or ulcers will merely require some medical attention before disappearing completely.
Can Bedsores Be Self-Treated?
Bedsores or ulcers can be treated by the individual themselves. Methods of self-treatment include:
- moving around as often as possible in order to avoid remaining in the same position and allowing the blood to continually flow
- maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
- applying specialist dressings in order to relieve the pressure on the skin
Are Bedsores Caused as a Result of Medical Negligence?
If a patient is unable to treat a bedsore or ulcer themselves, the relevant nurse, doctor or carer should ensure that appropriate treatment and preventative actions are taken. If the medical professional does not provide the appropriate care, this may constitute medical negligence if it can be shown that the individual has failed in their duty of care.
Where bedsores or ulcers develop into more serious illnesses, or in some extreme instances death, our medical negligence solicitors can assist by carrying out a full investigation into the care received. This enables us to then determine whether any medical negligence compensation may be owed.
At Co-op Legal Services our experienced team are more than happy to investigate your claim and in some instances offer a 'No Win No Fee' medical negligence service. We are able to investigate into both private and NHS medical negligence matters.
Please contact us if you feel that you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical negligence claim as a result of lack of appropriate care whilst in hospital, a care home or a nursing home. We will happily provide you with the advice and recommendations that you need.