Bedsores: Why Do They Occur?
April 21, 2021 by Spector Injury & Accident Lawyers
Bedsores are a common and potentially serious medical condition affecting thousands of people around the country. Despite their prevalence, they are not a frequent topic of discussion. Many people either don’t really know what they are, or don’t fully appreciate the damage they inflict on the human body.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores are caused by sustained pressure on a person’s skin, causing damage to the skin and underlying tissue. For this reason, they are also often referred to as “pressure sores.”
Bedsores usually occur when a person remains in the same seated or supine position for long periods without moving. They are frequently seen in hospitals and nursing homes where people are bedridden and immobile. They can also be a recurring problem for the wheelchair-bound.
Bedsores usually develop on bony areas of the body, such as the heel, tailbone, hips, and ankles. They can appear anywhere there is prolonged pressure and, in turn, tepid circulation. They can begin to form after only a few hours or sometimes take days to develop.
Bedsores can vary considerably in terms of severity. Minor sores may appear as red spots or abrasions on the skin, while the most severe sores reach deep into the tissue and sometimes all the way to the bone. The long-term health implications are similarly diverse; minor cases can easily be treated with medicine, while more serious cases may permanently damage bone and muscular structure.
A few warning signs of bedsores are:
- Changes in the color of your skin;
- Pus-like draining;
- A part of the body feeling cooler or warmer than other parts of the body; and
- Areas of the body are extremely sensitive to touch.
Although bedsores can happen to anyone left sitting or lying in the same position for an extended time, people with certain preexisting conditions face enhanced risk, including those with:
- Poor nutrition: Our body needs vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and prevent infection. A person with an irregular diet is more likely to develop bedsores.
- Lack of sensory perception: Of course, pain and discomfort are early indicators of a developing bedsore. Many people with immobility issues suffer from conditions that also inhibit their sensory perception. If they cannot feel the sore developing, they cannot act preemptively to prevent it from becoming serious.
- Circulatory problems: Bedsores form in areas with reduced blood flow. Therefore, people with medical conditions that affect the circulatory system face enhanced risk, including those with diabetes and certain vascular diseases.
Long-Term Health Impacts
Although most bedsores don’t pose significant health risks, some, especially those left untreated for an extended period, can cause serious problems, including:
- Cellulitis: Untreated bedsores can lead to a serious skin condition called cellulitis. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that can cause the skin to crack and blister. The infected area may feel ultra-sensitive and painful. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, it may be fatal.
- Bone infections: If bedsores are left untreated the infection can eventually migrate to the bones. In severe cases, a condition known as osteomyelitis may erode limb function and cause the victim extreme pain.
- Cancer: Although rare, untreated bedsores can lead to cancer. In particular, they can cause a kind of squamous cell carcinoma that can be fatal.
Bedsores are not inevitable even for the most at-risk individuals. There are practical measures that can prevent bedsores from occurring.
Those who must remain in stationary positions should be moved or rotated to ensure every part of the body receives adequate circulation. Bed-ridden nursing home patients should be turned and adjusted routinely to prevent shearing and blood pooling. Those in wheelchairs should do wheelchair pushups and other exercises to encourage circulation. There are also specialty wheelchairs that are designed to prevent bedsores from forming.
At-risk populations should also take great care of their skin and monitor for warning signs. It’s crucial to keep the skin clean and dry—this is critically important for the incontinent. Many health care products are available, such as creams and lotions, that keep the skin healthy. Additionally, bedding and clothing should be changed and washed frequently.
What Is a Bedsore Lawsuit?
A person may develop bedsores because of neglect or abuse. This is a common phenomenon in nursing homes around the country.
Nursing home facilities generally have strict health protocols on paper, but they are sometimes not rigorously enforced. The results can be devastating. If a bed-ridden patient is not cleaned and adjusted regularly they may develop bedsores that can cause a litany of other health complications.
Thankfully, victims have legal rights. They can file a lawsuit against the facility and caregiver for the harm they suffered. If the suit is successful, they may be granted a significant financial award.
Most bedsore lawsuits are brought under a theory of negligence. To bring a successful negligence claim, the victim must demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, that breach caused the victim’s injuries, and those injuries are more than nominal in value.
In the bedsore context, the victim must demonstrate that they were owed a duty of care by the nursing home, this duty was violated when the facility failed to ensure the health and well-being of the victim, this breach caused the victim bedsores and other health complications, and these injuries are more than nominal in value.
If each of the above elements can be proved with evidence, the court may grant the victim damages for the cost of treating the bedsores, the pain and suffering the victim experienced, and for any cost incurred because of the defendant’s negligent behavior.
The first step toward filing a lawsuit is hiring an experienced nursing home negligence attorney. They understand the nuances of the law and can launch a full investigation to ensure the truth gets heard.
Victims shouldn’t hesitate to take action. Maryland imposes a three-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases and other states impose different deadlines. Waiting too long could mean permanently forfeiting your right to legal recourse. If cost is a concern, many attorneys offer a free initial consultation at no out-of-pocket cost to the client.