Nursing Home and Hospital Bed Sores | Pressure Sores | Pressure Ulcers
How Do Bedsores Result In Medical Malpractice?
All healthcare providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, have a legal and professional responsibility to serve their patients competently and live up to the “standard of care.” A healthcare professional fails to live up to this standard of care when a medical professional does something a reasonable member of the person’s profession would have done.
Medical malpractice may occur if a patient is neglected or not provided with necessary care. When a hospital or nursing home patient are neglected due to failure to reposition or provide a sanitary environment, pressure sores may result. A bed sore can lead to pain, infection, amputation, or even death.
Bed sores are considered a preventable “never” event that should never occur with proper medical care. Nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other healthcare staff have an obligation to take the commonly accepted steps to prevent the development of pressure sores. If you or a loved one has been harmed by complications of a bed sore, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What Are Pressure Sores?
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are lesions to the skin caused by prolonged pressure upon the skin. Prolonged unrelieved pressure reduces the blood supply and oxygen to the skin and surrounding tissues. This results in damage or death of skin cells. Bed sores often develop in bony areas such as the tailbone, heels, ankles, and hips which are not as cushioned by muscle and fat. However, they can develop nearly anywhere in the body.
Bedsores may begin in a short amount of time and can be difficult to treat. Advanced bedsores can kill the skin and may result in exposed muscle, tendons, and bone. This can result in infections leading to serious and life-threatening complications. Bedsores are divided into four stages. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory professional Panel defines each stage as follows:
- Non-blanchable erythema – This is intact skin with non-blanchable redness of a localized area over a bony prominence.
- Partial thickness injury – This is a partial loss of dermis presenting as a shallow open ulcer with a red pink wound bed, without slough. It may also present as an intact or open/ruptured serum-filled of sero-sanguinous filled blister. It presents as a shiny or dry shallow ulcer without slough or bruising.
- Full thickness skin loss – This occurs when the skin’s full thickness is removed. While under-the-skin fat may be visible, bone, tendon, or muscle are not exposed.
- Full thickness tissue loss – This occurs when there is exposed bone, tendon, or muscle. It often includes undermining and tunneling.
Learn more about the National Pressure Advisory Panel’s stages on their website.
What Causes Bed Sores?
As stated above, bed sores are caused by pressure against the skin that limits the amount of blood flow to the skin. Ways that this pressure may develop include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A sustained period of pressure – This occurs when a patient’s body is not repositioned.
- Friction – If skin is allowed to drag across a surface, it may skin more fragile and vulnerable to injury from sustained pressure.
- Shear – “Shear” occurs when surfaces move in opposite directions. For example, shear happens if an adjustable bed is moved up while the patient’s body slips down it. This may injure the skin and blood vessels allowing thus making the skin more vulnerable to sustained pressure.
Who is At the Most Risk for Bed Sores?
Due to the nature of bed sores, individuals with limited mobility are most likely to develop bed sores if their weight is not shifted frequently. This may include people such as:
- Patients on bed rest
- Patients who spend a lot of time sitting or in a wheel chair
- Paralyzed individuals
- Patients in a coma
- Patients with reduced strength
- Sedated patients
Other factors which may make a person more likely to develop bed sores include
- Smoking – Smoking dries the skin out making a person more vulnerable.
- Poor nutrition
- Poor hydration
- Lack of awareness – A lack of awareness may lead to patients failing to take care of themselves.
- Muscle spasms – Muscle spasms may weaken the skin and blood vessels through friction.
- Individuals with decreased blood flow. This decreases the blood’s ability to reach the skin.
- Excessive moisture
- Excessively dry skin
- Excess weight. – This may limit a person’s blood flow by placing an added burden on blood vessels.
- Recent weight loss – The loss of padding from fat may make a person more likely to develop sores.
Bed Sore Complications
In addition to the substantial pain and discomfort caused by bed sores, bed sores may cause increasingly dangerous complications as they develop into further stages. Some potential complications of bed sores include:
- Sepsis – This is potentially fatal blood stream poisoning.
- Septic shock – This places the body in a state where organ failure may occur.
- Cellulitis – This is an infection of skin and connected soft tissues. It can be very painful and lead to life-threatening complications
- Bone and joint infections
- Cancer – Some cancers are more likely to develop in chronic non-healing wounds
How to Prevent Pressure Sores
Pressure sores are easier to prevent that to treat. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is important to protect through preventative measures.
Because pressure sores are typically caused by consistent pressure placed upon the same area and factors such as excessive skin dryness or moisture, almost all bed sores can be prevented through regularly moving patients and following basic rules such as:
- Reposition patients regularly – Patients should be repositioned at least every 2 hours in bed or every 15 minutes in a wheelchair
- Use specialized devices, cushions, and pillows – Specialized equipment may pressure on the body to minimize the risk of sores or make movement easier.
- Provide adequate nutrition and water
- Change sheets frequently
- Keep residents clean and dry
- Inspect the body regularly. This can help to identify high-risk regions or identify pressure sores before they advance into further stages.
- Change medical devices touching the skin regularly
- Teach patients to reposition themselves regularly
How to Treat Pressure Ulcers
If a pressure sore does develop, it must be diagnosed and treated promptly in order to prevent it from developing into a more serious stage. A stage I or stage II pressure sore typically heals within several weeks. Step III or IV may require months of recovery time or even surgery. Pressure sores become increasingly dangerous as they progress to further stages.
Some steps to treat a pressure ulcer may include:
- Properly diagnose the existence and stage of the pressure sore
- Determine the cause of the pressure sore to take corrective action
- Manage the load of pressure upon the skin and bed sore area
- Prevent additional pressure or friction against the sore
- Keep the sore clean and covered
- Change bandages frequently
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a healthy diet with adequate liquids
- Determine if a patient has suffered previous pressure sores and how they were treated
How Nursing Home and Hospital Bedsore Malpractice Occurs
Most bedsores are preventable though proper patient hygiene and movement. Nursing homes and hospitals may commit malpractice through failing to fulfill these basic obligations. Malpractice may occur when the steps to prevent or treat are not adequately followed.
Some ways that neglect and other medical malpractice may result in bed sores includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Failure to reposition patients
- Failure to identify high-risk patients
- Failure to maintain cleanliness
- Communication errors between healthcare facility staff
- Organizational culture of carelessness
- Inability to manage difficult elderly patients
- Valuing patient convenience over patient safety
- Lack of proper equipment or lifts to move reposition patients
- Failure to document repositioning patients
- Failure to provide appropriate pressure-relieving devices
- Failure to ensure patients receive adequate nourishment
- Failure to identify an existing pressure sore
- Failure to properly clean pressure sores
- Failure to call a doctor when a pressure sore develops
- Failure to cause of previous pressure sores
Did You or a Loved One Suffer Due to Bedsore Complications?
Our firm has the background and experience to determine whether bedsore complications were caused by nursing home or hospital malpractice. Even though bedsores are considered “never events,” the law makes it challenging to prove that any type of medical malpractice has occurred. You not only need to show that something went wrong, but also that the healthcare provider failed to follow the “standard of care” and that the failure led to your condition getting worse.
In order to prove that medical malpractice has occurred, we develop a plan that gives you the best chance to discover the truth and get you the compensation you deserve. Our plans frequently include getting the medical records quickly and having those records reviewed by medical experts. We will work tirelessly to determine your injuries and see if the healthcare provider has acted irresponsibly.
If you believe that you have been the victim of bed sore due to medical malpractice and our investigation supports that the doctor or another healthcare provider fell short of the standard of care, we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve to help offset your harms, losses, and damages.
CONTACT OUR BED SORE ATTORNEYS FOR A FREE CASE EVALUATION
If you believe that a healthcare facility committed medical malpractice by failing to prevent or properly treat a bedsore, contact Ray Gupta & Associates for a free consultation. We help people and families throughout Illinois and Indiana. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing unless your claim is successful and results in compensation.