Kansas City Bedsores Attorneys
Bedsores Can Lead to Extreme Pain and Serious Complications
A recent study showed that around 1 in 10 nursing home residents have bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers. These wounds are caused when constant, heavy pressure cuts off blood flow to an area of the body for a long period of time. None of our organs can fulfill their function without oxygen and nutrients, and that includes our skin. In as little as 4 to 6 hours of oxygen deprivation, skin cell death can lead to the development of a bedsore.
For elderly and infirm patients, regular care and attendance is a must-have to help avoid bedsores. Without nurses to ensure a patient’s skin isn’t under sustained pressure, bedsores may develop and advance into painful, serious wounds. Your loved one should not have to suffer through this type of neglect. If bedsores have caused pain and suffering or expensive medical complications to a loved one, you may be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
Elderly, Mobility, Nutrition: What Puts Patients at Risk?
Studies have found that patients over the age of 70 are more likely to develop bedsores than their younger counterparts, perhaps because they are more likely to have the conditions that lead to the development of bedsores. Physical characteristics linked to bedsore development include:
- Dry skin
- Low BMI
- Poor nutrition
- Poor general health
Medical-related causes include:
- Regular cigarette use
- Reduced mobility
- Mental impairments
- Low blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Peripheral vascular disease
Many elders with one or some of these characteristics manage to avoid serious pressure ulcer injuries. The conditions in which patients are kept are the biggest factor of potential risk.
- High friction,
- high pressure,
- moisture, and
create the conditions under which bedsores often develop. By agitating skin and compressing it in ways that inhibit blood flow, these circumstances often lead to serious injuries.
They’re Not Just Painful—They’re a Medical Hazard.
Patients with bedsores report a burning sensation that may shift among parts of the wound or multiple wounds but is nearly constant. The longer they go untreated, the worse the pain gets. However, this is (if possible) the least of the symptoms related with pressure ulcers. These wounds do not often lead directly to death, but complications can cause serious symptoms and declining health.
Bedsores may range from mild and easy-to-treat to deep, complex wounds. Most medical professionals use the National Pressure Ulcer Staging System to discuss the severity of these injuries.
Deep Tissue Injury (Pre-Stage I)
These sores aren’t on the surface of a patient’s skin at all but appear as a bruise or a blood blister—albeit one caused by pressure damage. The area may be painful and may differ in temperature or consistency from undamaged surrounding skin. Even if treated, these injuries may lead to Stage III or IV bedsores.
Usually considered a sign of risk rather than a serious case in itself, a Stage I bedsore presents as redness (on light skin) or red, purple, or blue discoloration (on darker skin). As with deep tissue injuries, temperature and consistency differences present between the sore and surrounding skin.
These pressure ulcers do not appear as bruises, but instead as blisters or shallow, shiny patches where parts of the epidermis and dermis have been rubbed off.
When patients lose all skin in an area, the subcutaneous fat layer may be visible (some locations, like ears and nose, do not have a fat layer). The wound may be surrounded by still-connected but dead tissue. Called slough, this skin is still soft and moist and may be a range of colors, from whitish to green to grey. The wound may be bigger than it appears from the exterior.
Muscle, tendon, and even bone may be visible at this stage, and the wound often extends underneath intact skin around the opening. The bedsore may be partially surrounded by slough or by eschar, dead tissue that is dark in color, thick, and leathery. At this stage, patients are susceptible to osteomyelitis, or a bone infection.
When the full thickness of a patient’s skin tissue has died but the resulting slough and/or eschar cover the whole wound so its depth cannot be determined, doctors will label a pressure ulcer “unstageable.” When enough dead skin has been removed, the wound will be labeled Stage III or IV, as determined by the ratings above.
Bedsores don’t often directly cause death, but studies have found that elderly hospital patients who develop them are more likely to die within 1 year. When originating after surgery, they may cause long-lasting disability. Large open wounds are always at risk for infection and the condition may cause other medical abnormalities as well.
Bacteria thrive in warm, moist areas, making our bodies host to many different types. Usually, our skin protects us from infection. When pressure ulcers weaken or entirely remove skin, the immune system is the only defense left—and in elderly nursing home populations, weak immune reactions are common. Patients are therefore vulnerable to bacteremia (an infection in the bloodstream), sepsis, cellulitis (a skin infection), meningitis, or many other serious conditions that could lead to death if not treated.
Other difficulties that may result from pressure ulcers include heterotopic bone formation (a condition where bone tissue ossifies amongst soft tissue like muscles or tendons), pseudoaneurysm (damage to an artery that causes internal bleeding), Marjolin ulcers (development of squamous cell carcinoma in scar tissue), and complications arising from the therapies used to address bedsores. Symptoms can range from mild and easily treatable to serious and painful.
Can I Sue A Nursing Home for Bedsores?
The presence of one Stage I bedsore is likely not enough to launch a lawsuit, but when these wounds become more serious, numerous, and long-lasting, you may have a good case for nursing home abuse. Mounting medical bills are certainly a concern as pressure ulcers deepen and complications arise, but your loved one’s pain and suffering is an even bigger cause for concern. With our 100 years of combined experience, we’ve helped many clients hold nursing homes accountable for patient neglect. If you want your loved one’s facility to face the consequences of its actions, we may be able to help you too.