Quality improvement program to reduce the prevalence of pressure ulcers in an intensive care unit

Am J Crit Care. 2008 Jul;17(4):328-34; quiz 335; discussion 336-7.


Background: Critically ill patients are at increased risk for pressure ulcers, which increase patients' morbidity and mortality. Quality improvement projects decrease the frequency of pressure ulcers.

Objectives: To improve patients' outcomes by reducing the prevalence of pressure ulcers, identifying areas for improvement in prevention of pressure ulcers, and increasing the adoption of preventive strategies in an intensive care unit.

Method: Quasi-experimental methods were used for this quality improvement project in which 563 surveys of patients' skin were performed during 22 audits conducted during a 26-month period. One-on-one clinical instruction was provided to bedside nurses during the surveys, and pressure ulcer data were displayed in the clinical area.

Results: The frequency of pressure ulcers of all stages showed an overall downward trend, and the prevalence decreased from 50% to 8%. The appropriate allocation of pressure-relieving devices increased from 75% up to 95% to 100%. The likely origin of the ulcer (ie, whether it was hospital or community acquired) and the anatomical site of the pressure ulcers did not change during the study period.

Conclusions: This program was successful in reducing the prevalence of pressure ulcers among vulnerable intensive care patients and indicates that quality improvement is a highly effective formula for improving patients' outcomes that is easily implemented by using clinical expertise and existing resources.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome