Preventing pressure injuries
Thousands of New Zealanders get a pressure injury each year, even though research shows that most are preventable. When they happen, pressure injuries can have a significant impact on peoples' lives, and lead to long periods of bedrest and social isolation, and in the most severe cases, death. They can also have a significant impact on the health system.
What is a pressure injury?
When you stay in one position for too long, your skin and flesh can get damaged.
The damage can range from a blister to a deep open wound, which can be difficult to treat. If you get a pressure injury it might take months to recover.
Pressure injuries are also known as bedsores, pressure sores, pressure areas, or pressure ulcers. They can develop in a matter of hours.
What are the signs and symptoms of a pressure injury?
The first sign of a pressure injury is often a discoloured area that does not turn white when pressed.
- People with pale skin tend to get red patches
- People with dark skin tend to get purple or blue patches
You might feel discomfort or pain.
Who is at risk of pressure injuries?
Anyone can get pressure injuries, but they are most common for people who are sitting or lying for long periods, using a wheelchair, or using a piece of medical equipment that has contact with the skin.
You are more likely to get a pressure injury if you:
- sit or lie for long periods of time
- have damp skin from sweating or incontinence
- have loss of feeling or poor blood flow
- do not eat a balanced diet or stay hydrated
- regularly use medical equipment that touches your skin.
Which parts of your body are most at risk?
Pressure injuries normally happen where your body takes your weight and where your bones are close to the surface.
How can you prevent pressure injuries?
If you are in bed:
- change position every two or three hours, even a small shift in position can help
- use pillows to stop your knees and ankles touching each other, particularly when lying on your side
- try to avoid creases in your bed linen
- if sitting up in bed, be aware that sliding down can cause injury to your bottom and heels
- ask for help if you need it
If you are seated:
- relieve pressure by leaning forward or leaning side to side for a few minutes every half hour
- if you can stand, stand for a few minutes
- if you can walk, go for a short walk
What else can you do?
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids
- Keep your skin clean and dry
- Ask your nurse/carer to help you with any incontinence/sweat
- Keep moving to relieve pressure
- Check for discolouration and soreness, including under and around medical equipment
Talk to your nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, doctor or dietician, who can help you plan your care to prevent pressure injuries.
Learn more about the impact, prevention and treatment of pressure injuries in the videos below
Resources for people at risk
Preventing pressure injuries Posters
Preventing Pressure Injuries Leaflets
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Printed copies of resources can be ordered here: Click to Order
*Note: these resources are only available for shipment to New Zealand addresses.
The resources are available to download for you to print at home if you reside outside of New Zealand.
Health Quality & Safety Commission Pressure Injury Prevention page
Health Quality & Safety Commission Patient Stories
ACC, the Health Quality & Safety Commission and the Ministry of Health are all committed to working together with the sector to reduce pressure injuries in New Zealand.
Worldwide STOP Pressure Injury (Ulcer) day started in 2012 following a meeting of Spanish speaking wound care organisations who agreed and signed the Declaration of Rio. This initiative aims to increase awareness of pressure injuries amongst the public, medical professionals and politicians. The European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (EPUAP), acknowledging and applauding this work, joined and encouraged countries internationally to participate. The New Zealand Wound Care Society (NZWCS) participates each year with local Area groups organisng events to raise awareness of pressure injuries/ulcers, their prevention and management.
The aim of the day is to raise awareness of pressure injuries and how to prevent them. Key messages are:
- with the right knowledge and care, pressure injuries can be avoided;
- all health professionals, carers, family/whanau members and patients have important roles to play in prevention;
- skin care matters.
STOP Pressure Injury Awareness Activities are planned around the country
Support for Stop PI Day is provided by:
Health, Quality and Safety Commission - Pressure Injury Prevention and Patient Stories (HQSC)
ACC - 'Guiding Principles for Pressure Injury Prevention and Management in NZ' (ACC) and
Ministry of Health - HealthCERT Bulletin 'Pressure Injury Prevention and Management' (MoH)
who have all come together with the NZWCS to again promote Pressure Injury Prevention and Stop Pressure Injury Day 2021