Millions of people around the world are affected by pressure ulcers, many of whom are unable to help prevent or relieve the issue. For patients with mobility issues, advanced wound care and sometimes hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be an adjunctive modality to finally help find relief from chronic, pressure ulcer-related wounds.
How Are Pressure Ulcers Formed?
Pressure ulcers, more commonly known as pressure sores or bedsores, are often found on people who are confined to wheelchairs or beds. Bedsores are caused when a person sits or lies in the same position for too long. Eventually, the weight of their body against a wheelchair or bed constricts or even cuts off blood supply in that area.
Pressure ulcers predominantly form in bony areas, where the space between skin and bone is relatively small. These areas include the hips, buttocks, elbow, heels, shoulders, back, and back of the head. Where a bedsore develops is dependent on the position of the body; whether the person is seated or lying down, and whether they are lying on the back or side.
Pressure sores are often characterized into stages based on the deepness of the sore itself. If left untreated, they can be incredibly dangerous and even deadly.
The mildest stage, these bedsores only affect the top most layer of your skin. The area may appear red, and will not turn white when pressed. It can be difficult to detect pressure ulcers in people with dark skin tones.
If a bony area becomes itchy or painful, or appears different to the adjacent tissue, it may be the sign of a developing ulcer.
Stage 2 ulcers go deeper into your skin, often forming an open sore. These sores can look like blisters, and frequently ooze clear liquid. The area surrounding the ulcer may also be swollen and red.
These sores have gone through the second layer of skin, and present as an open wound. The sore may have a bad odor, and sometimes it is possible to see pieces of fatty tissue inside the crater.
This is the most severe form of pressure ulcer. The sore is deep enough that it affects muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bone. It will be big and deep, with evidence of infection and potentially dying tissue. Stage 4 ulcers often require surgery.
When doctors are unable to gauge the depth of a bedsore due to coverings of dead skin, it is classified as unstageable.
Suspected Deep Tissue Injury (SDTI)
Pressure sores that present as stage 1 or 2 ulcers can actually be stage 3 or 4 ulcers underneath the skin.
Treating Pressure Ulcers With Advanced Wound Care and HBOT
Although stage 1 and 2 pressure ulcers can often be treated quickly and at home (unless they become infected), bedsores can easily become wounds that require months or even years of treatment.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown to improve wound healing in patients with bedsores and stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcers. Although offloading, debridement, antibiotics, and even surgery are often needed for severe cases, HBOT can be used as a supplementary treatment in selective advanced cases – more so if bone is exposed and infected.
Because pressure ulcers are formed by a lack of blood supply to a specific body part due to pressure, encouraging blood flow in the area by taking the pressure off the affected area is one of the primary requirements of treating these wounds. However, increasing blood flow can be difficult if blood vessels in the surrounding area were damaged by the pressure. By increasing blood oxygen levels, HBOT encourages the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). Not only does this allow more oxygen, a necessary requirement of wound healing, to reach the damaged area, it also stimulates and increases overall blood flow.
Oxygen therapy has also been shown to reduce swelling (edema), control infection and decrease inflammation. These conditions can be incredibly dangerous for patients with open wounds as a result of pressure ulcers, and often require hospital stays. By reducing possible side effects of pressure ulcers, HBOT gives your body time to start healing fully.
Overall, treatment of pressure ulcers can be a complicated and a long process that requires qualified medical care. We invite you to schedule a consultation with one of our professional RegenQuest medical practitioners, to ascertain what treatment will best suit you or your loved one.