New pressure sore scanner could prevent pressure sores

A new pressure sore scanner could help eradicate pressure sores across the NHS and therefore minimise patient suffering.

Pressure sores (also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores) are localised damage to the skin, caused by prolonged pressure on that area of skin. As a result they commonly occur on the elderly and those that are bed bound.  Pressure sores are believed to affect 18 to 25% of patients in acute care and long-term care settings, costing the NHS approximately £2.1 billion per annum.

At present the only method to identify a pressure sore is through a visual inspection, which by its nature is very labour intensive and relies on a person’s judgement. Often a sore is only identified once it is too late, resulting in unnecessary suffering for the patient. In these cases patients often end up pursuing a pressure sore claim in order to seek compensation for their discomfort.

A sub-epidermal moisture (SEM) scanner has been developed, working by measuring changes in skin moisture levels when placed on areas where pressure sores commonly occur – such as the lower back, heels or hips. The scanner emits a minute electrical current through the surface of the skin and is able to report changes that could lead to a pressure sore developing based on the electrical resistance.

The scanner was initially trialled at St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight for a two month period with none of the 35 patients scanned, developing a pressure sore. Such has been the success of the scanner that it is now being used on two wards, with the view that it will be rolled out across the entire hospital in the future.

Glenn Smith, Tissue Viability Nurse and Patient Safety Lead at St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight commented:

“We are extraordinarily proud of the Tissue Viability and Nutrition Team and what they have been able to accomplish. We have since expanded the program, and have not seen a single pressure ulcer on patients that we have scanned where we have implemented the SEM scanner. The information from the scanner allows us to intervene before the point that pressure injuries becoming obvious. We are starting to scan people on admission, and we can now tell within twenty-four hours if a specific intervention is working and can personalise patient care plans accordingly”.

The success of the scanner could have a dramatic impact on the number of patients suffering from pressure sores should it be rolled out hospital wide across the NHS. Medical negligence solicitors Blackwater Law believe such is the scale of those currently suffering from pressure sores that the scanner has the scope to reduce the overall number of medical negligence claims as a whole.

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