Objectives: To examine the relationship between a measure of subepidermal moisture (SEM) and visual skin assessment (VSA) of erythema and Stage 1 pressure ulcers (PUs) performed a week later in nursing home (NH) residents.
Design: Descriptive, cohort study.
Setting: Two NHs.
Participants: Thirty-five residents.
Methods: Concurrent VSAs and SEM readings were obtained at the sacrum, right and left trochanters, buttocks, and ischial tuberosities weekly for 52 weeks. SEM was measured using a handheld dermal phase meter, with higher readings indicating greater SEM (range 0-999 dermal phase units [DPUs]). VSA was rated as normal, erythema/Stage 1 PU, or Stage 2+PU. SEM was modeled as a predictor of VSA of erythema and PUs 1 week later (controlling for clustering), with concurrent moisture, Braden Scale PU risk status, anatomic site, and ethnicity as covariates.
Results: Participants had a mean age of 84.7, 83% were female, and 80% were non-Hispanic white. SEM measures were lowest for normal skin (97+/-122 DPU), higher for erythema/Stage 1 PUs (192+/-188 DPU), and highest for Stage 2+PUs (569+/-320 DPU) across all sites (all P<.001). SEM was responsive to changes in VSA, and higher SEM predicted greater likelihood of erythema/Stage 1 PU the next week (odds ratio=1.26 for every 100-DPU increase in SEM, P=.04).
Conclusion: SEM measures are associated with concurrent erythema and PUs and future (1 week later) development of erythema/Stage 1 PUs. SEM may assist in predicting early PU damage, allowing for earlier intervention to prevent skin damage.