Background Pressure ulcers are a major problem after cardiovascular surgery, occurring in 9.2% to 38% of patients.

Objectives To determine the effectiveness of a skin care intervention program in preventing development of ulcers or progression from one stage to another and to determine the extent to which selected risk factors were associated with development and progression of pressure ulcers.

Methods A simple interrupted time series design was used. The protocol involved interrelated assessment, staging, and type of intervention provided. The Braden Scale was used to determine risk for skin breakdown.

Results Of the 351 patients in the study, 327 (93%) maintained skin integrity and 24 (7%) had skin breakdown. Breakdown by stages was as follows: stage 1, 62% (n = 15); stage 2, 29% (n = 7); stage 3, 4% (n = 1); and stage 4, 4% (n = 1). Age, sex (female), and heart failure were statistically significant risk factors for breakdown (P = <.001, .02, and .02, respectively). The mean scores on the Braden Scale of the breakdown group differed significantly from those of the skin integrity group from days 2 through 5 after surgery (P = .01). Seventeen (71%) of the breakdowns occurred during the first 4 days after surgery.

Conclusions Skin assessments and nursing interventions should be increased on the day of surgery and the first to fifth postoperative days, including multiple assessments and skin care focused on maintaining skin integrity.

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