Over 63,000 fewer hospital acquired pressure injuries in Queensland thanks to a decade long initiative

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Anyone confined to a bed or chair for a long time is at risk of developing a pressure injury, a painful and serious problem if inadequately untreated. But thanks to the state-wide Pressure Injury Prevention Program, pressure injuries have dropped in Queensland by over 77% since the program started in 2003.

The Pressure Injury Prevention Program has contributed to achieving a major reduction in hospital-acquired pressure injury prevalence from 14.0% (2003) to 3.2% (2017). The program's succes to date is attributed to the promotion of evidence-based practice, a continuous improvement culture in clinical practice, alongside empowering the Queensland clinical workforce, patients, family and carers with education and resources.

Pressure injuries, also known as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, pressure sores or bed sores, are areas of damage to the skin and underlying tissue caused by constant pressure or friction. 

They can happen anywhere on the body and are extremely painful. The skin over bony areas such as the heels, elbows, shoulders, the back of the head, buttocks and coccyx is particularly at risk. Lack of adequate blood flow can cause the affected tissue to die if left untreated. Pressure injuries can be difficult to treat and can lead to serious complications. 

This type of skin damage can develop very quickly in anyone with reduced mobility, such as older people or those confined to a bed or chair. Just 30 minutes of pressure on one part of the body is enough to cause a pressure injury.

But people of any age maybe at risk, with risk factors including:

- General poor health or weakness
- Limited mobility
- Poor nutrition and hydration
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Lack of sensory perception e.g. diabetes, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis
- Urinary and faecal incontinence
- Excess moisture or dryness of skin
- Past history of a pressure injury

Pressure injuries are a major contributor to the care requirements of patients within the healthcare sector and are mostly preventable. A pressure injury might look like a minor issue, such as: red skin; blisters; dry or shiny patches of skin; but they can hide more damage under the surface of the skin, can become infected and cause scarring. They can delay a patient’s recovery by weeks, or even months.

In the absence of pressure injury reduction initiatives, and had the prevalence of pressure injuries continued to be at the same rate of 14.0% in 2017, it's estimated that over 63,000 additional overnight inpatients would have suffered from a hospital-acquired injury. With each pressure injury adding an average of 4.3 days extra to the length of hospital stay per patient, this reduction equates to savings equivalent to a 749 bed hospital.

Watch Video - Pressure Injury Prevention

Program overview

The statewide Strategic Advisory Panel Pressure Injury Prevention Collaborative guides the Pressure Injury Prevention Program. This group of multidisciplinary clinicians and a consumer from various healthcare organisations (public, private, community and non-government) works in a structured and strategic way to improve pressure injury prevention and management practices across Queensland. The group aims to make clinician-driven, evidence-based, patient-focused sustainable best practice changes within healthcare in an effort to reduce injuries and incidence related to pressure injuries and the associated costs. 

Pressure Injury Resources