Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Pressure Sores
You or your caregiver
can help prevent pressure sores by using
proper pressure-relieving supports and devices and
changing your position frequently, whether you're in a bed or a wheelchair. You
can also help prevent pressure sores if you avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet
that includes plenty of protein, and control your weight. For more information,
see the topic
Watch for early signs of
a pressure sore. These can include:
- A new area of redness that does not go away within a few minutes
of taking pressure off the area.
- An area of skin that is warmer or cooler than the surrounding
- An area of skin that is firmer or softer than the skin around
Contact your doctor if you:
- Think a pressure sore is starting and you are not able to adjust
your activities and positioning to protect the area.
- Notice an increase in the size or drainage of the sore.
- Notice increased redness around the sore or black areas starting
- Notice that the sore begins to smell bad and/or the drainage
becomes a greenish color.
- Have a fever.
General treatment for pressure sores is
to keep the area dry and clean, eat well, and reduce pressure. All pressure
sores need to be treated early, because after a sore progresses to
stage 3 or 4 , it is hard to treat and can lead to serious
complications. Specific treatment depends on the stage
of the pressure sores.
As you treat a pressure sore, you will know
it is healing correctly if:
- The sore is getting smaller.
- Pinkish tissue is forming along the edges of the sore,
gradually moving toward the center.
- The sore bleeds a little. This means there is blood circulation
in the area, which helps healing.
After a pressure sore is healed, it is important to
gradually put pressure on the area where the sore had been.
- Apply pressure for no more than 15 minutes and then check the
area for redness. If redness is present, watch how quickly the redness fades.
If fading occurs in 15 minutes or less, no damage has occurred. Before applying
pressure to the area again, wait at least 1 hour.
- After three successful 15-minute applications of pressure, you
can apply pressure for 30 minutes. Check for redness and how fast it fades, as
- If you can do three 30-minute applications successfully,
increase the time by 30 minutes a day using the same procedure.
- If an application of pressure is not successful-that is, if
redness returns and does not fade within 15 minutes-stay at that level until
you can complete three successful applications.
Note: Pressure sores can trigger
autonomic dysreflexia, a syndrome in which there is a
sudden onset of very
high blood pressure and headaches. If not treated
promptly and correctly, it may lead to
stroke, and even death. Although autonomic dysreflexia
rarely leads to these more serious complications, it is important to know the
symptoms and watch for them. Autonomic dysreflexia is more common in people
with an injury to the
thoracic nerves of the spine or above (T6 or above).