Republish this article
18th November 2015

Under pressure: the curse of bedsores

Imagine you are bed-bound, recovering from surgery. Your operation went well but your lack of movement is causing new problems: ‘bedsores’ are developing on your heels, your ankles, your hips and your tailbone. Your recovery just got complicated.

You may need to stay in bed for prolonged periods for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you have had an operation or suffered a serious injury. Perhaps you are older and your mobility is not what it used to be.

Whatever the cause, spending long periods in bed can lead to pressure ulcers – often known as bed sores – which require careful management if serious infection is to be avoided.


The dressings on pressure ulcer wounds need to be changed regularly or you will face considerable discomfort and pain. Wounds that are not well looked after take longer to heal.

The number of people affected by pressure ulcers is surprisingly high: 1 in 5 patients has a pressure ulcer, of which 50-80% developed in hospital, often leading people to stay in healthcare facilities longer than expected. When pressure ulcers develop at home, they can lead to readmission to hospital.

In many cases, a full recovery is possible. But when complications occur – such as infection of non-healing wounds, the worst case scenario can be amputation or even death.

For patients, pressure ulcers are a nightmare. For society too, the costs can be considerable if you think of all the extra days in hospital, wound management and, in some cases, time lost from work.

The total burden of bedsores is high: Around 4 million people in the EU develop pressure ulcers making them more common than cancer, cerebrovascular disease or diabetes.

What can be done?

The good news is that most pressure-related wounds are preventable and, when they occur, the risk of complications can be dramatically reduced.

The trouble is that no single health professional is equipped to care for complex pressure ulcers. Groups of professionals – known as multidisciplinary teams – are usually required.

That’s why awareness is so important. Educating nursing and medical staff, as well as the general public, is an important part of improving how we deal with pressure ulcers.

That’s what Stop Pressure Ulcer Day is all about. Taking place on 19 November, it is a chance to highlight how you can reduce your risk of developing bedsores and the complications they can bring.

See the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel for more