Organisation of health services for preventing and treating pressure ulcers

What is the aim of this review?

The aim of this review was to find out whether the way in which health services are organised can affect prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers. Cochrane researchers collected and analysed all relevant studies to answer this question and found four relevant studies.

Key messages

We cannot be certain whether transmural care (a way of providing care that delivers activities to support patients and their family/partners, and activities to promote continuity of care), hospital-in-the-home care, care provided by a team of different disciplines or care that is usually provided, make any difference to whether people develop pressure ulcers, how fast existing ulcers heal, or whether people with ulcers are admitted or readmitted to hospital.

What was studied in the review?

Pressure ulcers, sometimes known as bedsores or pressure sores, are injuries that develop as a result of continued pressure on bony parts of the body such as the hips, heels or lower back. It is thought that the way health services are organised can influence the development of pressure ulcers among people at risk, and may also influence the healing of these wounds.

Care can be delivered to people with pressure ulcers in various ways. We wanted to find out whether different types of care delivery affected the number of people developing pressure ulcers and how fast existing ulcers healed.

What are the main results of the review?

We found four studies dating from 1999 to 2014, that compared alternative types of care delivery to the way care is usually provided. The mean number of participants in the studies was 140, and the ages of participants ranged from 36.5 years to 83 years. In the studies 198 participants were men and 301 were women. All studies were funded by government agencies. Two studies focused on prevention of pressure ulcers, one on prevention and treatment, and one on treatment only.

It is unclear whether any alternative type of care delivery is better than care that is usually provided at reducing risk of pressure ulcers, or improving pressure ulcer healing. It is also unclear whether the way healthcare services are organised improves quality of life, patient and staff satisfaction, reduces hospital admissions, emergency room visits, or death at 28 days. This is because we are very uncertain about the evidence in all studies.

This Plain language summary is up to date as of 18 April 2018.

Authors' conclusions: 

Evidence for the impact of organisation of health services for preventing and treating pressure ulcers remains unclear. Overall, GRADE assessments of the evidence resulted in judgements of very low-certainty evidence. The studies were at high risk of bias, and outcome measures were imprecise due to wide confidence intervals and small sample sizes, meaning that additional research is required to confirm these results. The secondary outcomes reported varied across the studies and some were not reported. We judged the evidence from those that were reported (including adverse events), to be of very low certainty.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Pressure ulcers, which are a localised injury to the skin, or underlying tissue, or both, occur when people are unable to reposition themselves to relieve pressure on bony prominences. Pressure ulcers are often difficult to heal, painful, expensive to manage and have a negative impact on quality of life. While individual patient safety and quality care stem largely from direct healthcare practitioner-patient interactions, each practitioner-patient wound-care contact may be constrained or enhanced by healthcare organisation of services. Research is needed to demonstrate clearly the effect of different provider-orientated approaches to pressure ulcer prevention and treatment.

Objectives: 

To assess the effects of different provider-orientated interventions targeted at the organisation of health services, on the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.

Search strategy: 

In April 2018 we searched the Cochrane Wounds Specialised Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Ovid MEDLINE (including In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations); Ovid Embase and EBSCO CINAHL Plus. We also searched three clinical trials registries for ongoing and unpublished studies, and scanned reference lists of relevant included studies as well as reviews, meta-analyses and health technology reports to identify additional studies. There were no restrictions with respect to language, date of publication or study setting.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cluster-RCTs, non-RCTs, controlled before-and-after studies and interrupted time series, which enrolled people at risk of, or people with existing pressure ulcers, were eligible for inclusion in the review.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently performed study selection, risk of bias assessment, data extraction and GRADE assessment of the certainty of evidence.

Main results: 

The search yielded a total of 3172 citations and, following screening and application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria, we deemed four studies eligible for inclusion. These studies reported the primary outcome of pressure ulcer incidence or pressure ulcer healing, or both.

One controlled before-and-after study explored the impact of transmural care (a care model that provided activities to support patients and their family/partners and activities to promote continuity of care), among 62 participants with spinal cord injury. It is unclear whether transmural care leads to a difference in pressure ulcer incidence compared with usual care (risk ratio (RR) 0.93, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53 to 1.64; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision).

One RCT explored the impact of hospital-in-the-home care, among 100 older adults. It is unclear whether hospital-in-the-home care leads to a difference in pressure ulcer incidence risk compared with hospital admission (RR 0.32, 95% CI 0.03 to 2.98; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision).

A third study (cluster-randomised stepped-wedge trial), explored the impact of being cared for by enhanced multidisciplinary teams (EMDT), among 161 long-term-care residents. The analyses of the primary outcome used measurements of 201 pressure ulcers from 119 residents. It is unclear if EMDT reduces the pressure ulcer incidence rate compared with usual care (hazard ratio (HR) 1.12, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.68; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision). It is unclear whether there is a difference in the number of wounds healed (RR 1.69, 95% CI 1.00 to 2.87; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision). It is unclear whether there is a difference in the reduction in surface area, with and without EMDT, (healing rate 1.006; 95% CI 0.99 to 1.03; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision). It is unclear if EMDT leads to a difference in time to complete healing (HR 1.48, 95% CI 0.79 to 2.78, very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision).

The final study (quasi-experimental cluster trial), explored the impact of multidisciplinary wound care among 176 nursing home residents. It is unclear whether there is a difference in the number of pressure ulcers healed between multidisciplinary care, or usual care (RR 1.18, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.42; very low-certainty evidence, downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision). It is unclear if this type of care leads to a difference in time to complete healing compared with usual care (HR 1.73, 95% CI 1.20 to 2.50; very low-certainty evidence; downgraded twice for very serious study limitations and twice for very serious imprecision).

In all studies the certainty of the evidence is very low due to high risk of bias and imprecision. We downgraded the evidence due to study limitations, which included selection and attrition bias, and sample size. Secondary outcomes, such as adverse events were not reported in all studies. Where they were reported it was unclear if there was a difference as the certainty of evidence was very low.

Share/Save