Complication of Pressure Sores

Complication of pressure sores (decubitis ulcers)

"An estimated 60,000 people each year die of pressure ulcer complications."

An untreated pressure sore can lead to secondary conditions including:

  • sepsis (bacterial infection - can lead to mortality)
  • cellulitis (inflammation of body tissue, causing redness or swelling)

  • joint and bone infections

  • abscess (collection of pus)

  • cancer (squamous cell carcinoma)

What are the Risk Factors for pressure sores?

A pressure sore develops from the constant pressure applied to the contacted skin over a period of time.  Bed bound or mobility impaired patients with risk factors are at great risk of developing a pressure sore.

Risk Factors for pressure sores include:

  • bed immobility - from paralysis due to a stroke or head injury
  • lack of muscle strength - due to other medical impairments
  • people with diabetes may develop impaired sensation or the ability to respond to pain or discomfort. Diabetic neuropathy and nerve damage greatly,  heighten the risk of pressure sores when there is bed immobility
  • circulation disorders - a lack or reduced blood flow to the skin in areas of the buttock, heals, back are all areas of concern for pressure sores
  • obesity - the combination of immobility and being overweight can put pressure on the capillaries and restrict blood flow to the skin
  • urinary and fecal incontinence - skin irritation and damage can occur when it is exposed to urine or feces resulting in pressure sores and infections
  • malnutrition - poor diet and nutrition leads to fragile skin (tears, sores) from skin thinning and poor blood supply
  • smoking - the healing process of pressure sores is documented to slow with active smokers.  Combining smoking with reduced mobility greatly reduces blood flow to the skin resulting in pressure sores.


WOCN 2016 Guideline for Prevention and Management of Pressure Injuries (Ulcers): An Executive Summary