Prophylactic use of dressings for pressure ulcer prevention in the critical care unit

Br J Nurs. 2016 Jun 23;25(12):S6-S12. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2016.25.12.S6.


Multiple comorbidities and intensive therapy increase the risk of pressure ulcer (PU) development in critical care unit (CCU) patients. Given the high number of risk factors that CCU patients present with, it is important to acknowledge that not all PUs are entirely preventable, and incidence is thought to be between 14% and 42%. The consequences of acquiring a PU in critical care include increased mortality, morbidity and longer length of stay. Implementing prevention strategies as soon as the patient enters the unit can significantly reduce incidence. By adopting a proactive versus reactive mind-set, one CCU abandoned traditional PU risk assessment and implemented a number of intensive interventions, including the use of a prophylactic sacral dressing as an adjunct. As a result, PU incidence fell from 19.9 per 1000 patient population to 0.84 per 1000 patient population in 2014. In addition, 310 PU-free days were achieved.

Keywords: Critical care unit; Dressings; Patient experience; Pressure ulcer prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Bandages
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness / nursing*
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Pressure Ulcer / therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Care