New Research Suggests Pressure is Less Important in Causing Ulcers than Many People Think

By Catherine Lussenhop

    A new paper in Assistive Technology, the journal of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Association of North America (RESNA), suggests that the relation between interface pressure and the formation of pressure ulcers is not as clear-cut as many assume it to be.

    Researchers in the Netherlands reviewed previous studies about interface pressure and ulcers, looking to learn more about the clinical relationship between the two. Interface pressure is just the pressure between the skin and a supporting surface, like a wheelchair seat or a bed. For people who use wheelchairs or must be in bed, pressure ulcers most commonly form where bony prominences are close to the skin. The ulcers do serious damage if they are left untreated.

    Doctors and caregivers have long considered pressure to be the deciding factor in causing these ulcers – hence their name, pressure ulcers. However, after carefully reviewing the studies, the Dutch researchers found that there was only a “weak qualitative relationship” between interface pressure and ulcer development. They could find no quantitative threshold for pressure that could be used to predict if an ulcer would form.

    None of this comes as a surprise here at Tamarack. Pressure is important, but shear and friction forces are big contributors to the formation of ulcers as well. Shear can work in combination with friction and pressure to damage the skin and its underlying support structures. This new finding is just one more reason to remember the importance of shear and friction when looking to prevent or heal ulcers.

Read the abstract for yourself here, at RESNA’s website.

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