Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Pressure Ulcers Defined

  • Pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores, bedsores and decubitus ulcers, are areas of localized damage to the skin and underlying tissue
  • This damage is generally a result of external forces – pressure, shear and/or friction
    • Pressure: the force per unit area exerted perpendicular to the plane of interest
    • Shear: the force per unit area exerted parallel to the plane of interest
    • Friction: the resistance to motion in a parallel direction relative to the common boundary of two surfaces
  • Pressure ulcer development occurs in institutional and community settings, and is most often seen in elderly, debilitated and immobile (e.g., orthopaedic) clients, those with severe acute illness (e.g., those in intensive care units) and in individuals with neurological deficits (e.g., spinal cord injuries)
  • The burden of pressure ulcers and their treatment impacts on quality of life for the client and family, but also creates significant financial strain for those living with a pressure ulcer, their families, and the health care system
  • Early intervention is essential for those at risk of developing pressure ulcers. The principle components of early intervention are:
    • Identification of at-risk individuals who need preventive interventions and of the specific factors that place them at risk;
    • Protection and promotion of skin integrity;
    • Protection against the forces of pressure, friction and shear; and
    • Reduction of the incidence of pressure ulcers through educational programs for health professionals and clients.
Clinical Management
Risk Assessment and Prevention of Pressure Ulcers
Background Information