The Need for Pressure Cushions
People who spend long periods in the same position - for example, those who suffer from immobility or who use the same wheelchair for much of the day - may be at risk of developing pressure ulcers. These are painful injuries that result from prolonged pressure on soft tissue, most commonly over an area of bone such as a heel, hip or shoulder. The problem is often made worse by shear forces and friction - essentially, skin rubbing repeatedly against clothes or bed linen - and sometimes by the presence of moisture - e.g. perspiration. Besides being very painful, pressure ulcers pose a serious health problem because they can lead to potentially dangerous infections and because blood-flow to the affected area can be reduced, which means that injuries can sometimes be slow to heal and difficult to treat.
Due to the serious nature of the problem, anyone who is thought to be at risk of developing pressure ulcers should always seek immediate medical attention. Once this vital first step has been taken, the carer can then act on the resulting advice and consider some of the purpose-designed cushions that help to prevent or alleviate the problem.
Minimising Localised Pressure
For well over a century, medical and care professionals have recognised that an important way to help prevent pressure ulcers is to move the individual regularly and ensure that the same parts of the body are not constantly exposed to pressure. More even weight distribution can also play an important part in this process and, to this end, manufacturers have produced a range of seat cushions and pressure mattresses that spread the load well whilst also allowing good air-flow to help prevent the accumulation of moisture.
For any given patient, medical professionals will generally determine what the risks are of sustaining a pressure ulcer - typically low, moderate, high or very high. Manufacturers will normally state for what risk category their products are suitable and it is obviously vital that whatever product is chosen provides the necessary degree of protection.
Pressure Care Cushions - Important Features
Strength - check that the maximum user weight is appropriate for the intended user. Note, too, that bariatric cushions are available for larger, heavier users.
Breathability - look for vapour permeable fabrics and structures that permit good air-flow so as to help prevent the build-up of moisture.
Hygiene - to minimise infection risks, look for a product that can be cleaned easily. Some mattresses have specially designed seamless covers and/or incorporate anti-microbial agents that help prevent the growth of mould or bacteria.
Inflation - for very high risk patients, there are inflatable pressure cushions and cushions with air cells that are filled and partially deflated on a constantly changing cycle, thereby ensuring that pressure distribution is never fixed or localised. The use of a pump and automatic controls makes them more expensive than other systems but they can often provide excellent protection.