An overview of polyurethane foams in higher specification foam mattresses

Ostomy Wound Manage. 2015 Feb;61(2):38-46.


Soft polyurethane foams exist in thousands of grades and constitute essential components of hospital mattresses. For pressure ulcer prevention, the ability of foams to control the immersion and envelopment of patients is essential. Higher specification foam mattresses (i.e., foam mattresses that relieve pressure via optimum patient immersion and envelopment while enabling patient position changes) are claimed to be more effective for preventing pressure ulcers than standard mattresses. Foam grade evaluations should include resiliency, density, hardness, indentation force/load deflection, progressive hardness, tensile strength, and elongation along with essential criteria for higher specification foam mattresses. Patient-specific requirements may include optimal control of patient immersion and envelopment. Mattress cover characteristics should include breathability, impermeability to fluids, and fire safety and not affect mattress function. Additional determinations such as hardness are assessed according to the guidelines of the American Society for Testing and Materials and the International Organization for Standardization. At this time, no single foam grade provides an optimal combination of the above key requirements, but the literature suggests a combination of at least 2 foams may create an optimal higher specification foam mattress for pressure ulcer prevention. Future research and the development of product specification accuracy standards are needed to help clinicians make evidence-based decisions about mattress use.

MeSH terms

  • Beds / standards*
  • Beds / statistics & numerical data
  • Durable Medical Equipment / standards
  • Durable Medical Equipment / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Polyurethanes / therapeutic use*
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control


  • Polyurethanes
  • polyurethane foam