Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify factors that resulted in severe pressure ulcers in a community-based sample of 23 persons with spinal cord injury (SCI).
Design: A correlational design was used.
Subjects: Twenty men and three women, 57% with tetraplegia and 43% with paraplegia, participated. Adult participants with an ulcer of 12 weeks' duration or less were recruited from the plastic surgery clinic of a regional SCI center.
Measures: A structured survey assessed demographic, SCI and ulcer characteristics; detection method; immediacy and appropriateness of action; time from detection to clinic visit; number of prior ulcers; and knowledge and practice of ulcer prevention techniques. Ulcer characteristics (ie, location, size, and stage) were assessed by examination and compared with participants' descriptions of their ulcers.
Results: Severe ulcers and ulcers that progressed in severity after initial detection were less accurately described by participants. Individuals who waited longer to come to the clinic presented with more severe ulcers. Taking immediate or appropriate action when an ulcer was detected was related to reported performance of more preventive behaviors. Contrary to expectation, immediacy and appropriateness of action, and knowledge and practice of preventive behaviors were unrelated to severity, progression of severity, and time from detection to the clinic visit. The findings suggest that educational programs should emphasize more strongly immediate visits to a physician upon detection of an ulcer. Furthermore, such educational models should be assessed for their effectiveness in reducing ulcers and preventing progression in severity once persons with SCI return to the community.