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Pressure Ulcer


A pressure ulcer is an open wound that develops when the skin or tissue over a bony area is injured. A pressure ulcer is also called a pressure sore, bedsore, or decubitus ulcer. Pressure ulcers often develop when direct pressure slows or stops blood flow to the skin. A wound can also develop when friction causes the skin to tear or blister when it is dragged across a surface. Pressure ulcers may form over the bony areas on the back, hips, heels, buttocks, or ankles.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.

  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.

    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Change your position regularly:

Change your position every 2 hours if you are in a bed all day. Change your position every hour if you are in a wheelchair all day. Set an alarm to help remind you when it is time to turn. Keep a written turning schedule to help you remember to turn.

Care for your skin:

  • Clean and cover your wound: You may need to keep a bandage over your wound to protect the skin from more damage. You may also need to clean your wound with saline. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about when and how to change your bandages.

  • Keep your skin clean, dry, and moisturized: Use mild soap and warm water to clean your skin. Do not rub or scrub when you wash. Do not use products that contain alcohol, because they can dry out your skin. Gently pat your skin dry. Do not rub your skin with a towel. Apply lotion or a moisturizer on your skin often.

  • Protect the skin over bony areas: Use pillows or foam wedges to keep bony areas from touching, and to relieve pressure. For example, put a pillow or foam wedge between your knees to keep them from pressing on one another. Place a pillow or foam wedge under you to keep your hip raised when you lie on your side. Do not rest directly on your hipbone. Put a foam pad or pillow under your legs from calf to ankle when you lie on your back. The pad or pillow should raise your heels so that they are not touching the bed.

  • Use special equipment and pads: A draw sheet or large pad under you may help others move you up in bed. An overhead trapeze can help you change positions in bed. Special mattresses and overlays may help decrease the risk of pressure ulcers. Examples include a foam mattress pad, or special air or water mattresses. Ask about special equipment that may be right for you and how you use it.

Eat healthy foods:

Foods that are high in protein may help your pressure ulcer heal. This includes meat, beans, milk, yogurt, and cheese. Nutrition shakes may also give you extra calories and protein if you have trouble eating or are underweight.

Do not drink alcohol:

Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which slows blood flow.

Quit smoking:

Tobacco can damage your skin and slow wound healing. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help to quit smoking.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You notice green or yellow drainage or a bad smell coming from your pressure ulcer.

  • You cannot keep your skin dry because you leak urine or bowel movement.

  • You have questions or concerns about your pressure ulcer or care.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Pressure Ulcer (Discharge Care)