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The impact of pressure ulcers

A feared consequence of immobility and hospitalization, pressure ulcers cause pain, suffering, and death to millions of people every year. It's time we act to protect vulnerable patients and make pressure ulcers a problem of the past.

Pressure ulcers (sometimes called pressure sores or bedsores) are a breakdown of the skin and underlying tissue that is caused by unrelieved pressure and results in ischemic injury to affected areas 

Pressure Ulcers: Get the Facts


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Quick Facts:

Impact on patients

  • Each year 60,000 patients die as a direct result of pressure ulcers

  • Individuals with pressure ulcers have a 4.5-times greater risk of death than people with the same risk factors, but without pressure injuries

  • Developing a pressure ulcer increases a patient’s hospital course by an average of 4-10 days

  • 3-5% of all hospitalized patients will develop preventable pressure ulcers, due to immobility from being bed-bound and/or sedated 

  • Deadly complications associated with pressure ulcers include cellulitis, bone and joint infections, cancer, and sepsis

  • Pressure ulcers significantly impact morbidity and quality of life

Financial burden

  • Pressure ulcers cost approximately $10 billion per year in the U.S. alone

  • The cost of individual patient care is $20,000-150,000 per pressure injury, depending on the severity and depth 

  • In 2007, a pressure ulcer added $43,180 to a hospital stay--this number will continue to increase as healthcare costs continue to climb


Where they happen and who is at risk

  • About 2.5 million people develop a pressure ulcer every year

  • More than 1 in 10 residents of nursing homes have a pressure ulcer 

  • Anyone who is immobile (confined to a bed or who sits in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time) is at the highest risk

    • This includes adults over the age of 65, patients with paralysis from SCI or TBI, or those suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart failure, Multiple Sclerosis, or neurocognitive decline from any etiology

    • The number of patients living with these risk factors is increasing 

Stages of pressure ulcers

  • Stage 1: Non-blanching erythema (superficial skin redness)

  • Stage 2: Partial-thickness skin loss of the epidermis (shallow crater or blister)

  • Stage 3: Full-thickness skin loss involving subcutaneous tissue (a deep crater with surrounding dead tissue)

  • Stage 4: Ulcer extends to deeper structures, including the underlying muscle, bone, or ligaments

Acquiring a pressure ulcer during a hospital stay or nursing home should never happen. We must act now to create innovative, systems-based solutions to reduce the incidence and damage caused by pressure ulcers. 

The statistics on this page were adopted from information and materials 

publicly available on the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 

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