Can Pressure Sores Cause Sepsis?

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As we age, our skin loses elasticity and becomes more vulnerable to injury. When an elderly person cannot change their position without assistance, it puts pressure on the skin in vulnerable places such as on the bottom and backs of the legs. This unrelieved pressure reduces blood flow to the area, resulting in cell death and the breakdown of skin. The resulting wounds are known as pressure sores but are often called “bed sores” because bedridden individuals are prone to developing pressure sores. Those confined to wheelchairs also commonly develop pressure sores. When a pressure sore remains untreated it sometimes results in serious infection and sepsis. What is sepsis, and why are bedsores so often the cause of sepsis in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities?

How Do Bed Sores Become Sepsis?

Medical providers classify bed sore severity by the depth of the wound. Grade-one bedsores are mild, with skin discoloration but no open wound. As the cell death expands, the bed sores cause skin loss and then exposed fatty tissue. By grade five bed sores, the open wound exposes the muscle and bone. Once bedsores cause an open wound, the body is exposed to bacteria, commonly causing infection.

Nursing home and hospital staff can prevent bed sores by assisting immobile individuals in their care to change positions frequently and by keeping their skin, clothing, and bedding clean and dry. If a resident or patient develops a bedsore, the wound should be immediately addressed with care to prevent infection and promote healing. Unfortunately, understaffed facilities with overwhelmed caregivers often fail to address bed sores with prompt treatment, allowing infection to develop. Once an individual has one or more infected pressure sores, they face a risk of life-threatening sepsis.

What Is Sepsis, and Why Does It Sometimes Result from Pressure Sores?

High levels of sepsis are seen in patients with bed sores, leading most medical professionals to believe there is a strong relationship between the two conditions. While sepsis can develop from other infections such as UTIs, which are also common in nursing home residents, there are high numbers of sepsis cases in which the individual has one or more infected bed sores. Tragically, as many as one in five nursing home residents with infected bedsores and sepsis die from the condition.

Sepsis results from bacterial infections entering the bloodstream. The body’s reaction to the bacteria triggers a cascade of events that can lead to organ shutdown and death. As the body fights the infection through inflammation meant to kill the developing bacterial growth, the unchecked inflammation also causes cell death in critical organ tissue, causing organ shutdown and death if not promptly and aggressively treated.

Sepsis is a medical emergency with life-threatening consequences. Septic shock occurs when multiple organs cease to function properly. This condition can quickly lead to death, especially in the vulnerable elderly population.

Preventing Pressure Sores and Sepsis

Preventing bed sores requires maintaining the skin’s integrity with good hygiene, mild soap, and frequent moisturizing. Keeping the skin clean and dry helps prevent cell breakdown. Proper nutrition helps to encourage better resiliency in the skin. Regular position changes as well as special mattresses and cushions help relieve pressure and encourage blood flow and oxygenization which prevents cell death.

Signs of developing bed sores require immediate treatment before the skin breaks, potentially allowing bacteria to enter and cause infection leading to sepsis.

It takes a proactive staff of caregivers to prevent bedsores in nursing homes and other facilities.

If you believe your loved one’s sepsis was a result of pressure sore negligence, then you need to contact the Lousiville nursing home abuse lawyers at Gray & White, PLLC. Contact us online today, we offer free case evaluations.