Patients in intensive care units are likely to have limited mobility owing to hemodynamic instability and activity orders for bed rest. Bed rest is indicated because of the severity of the disease process, which often involves intubation, sedation, paralysis, surgical procedures, poor nutrition, low flow states, and poor circulation. These patients are predisposed to the development and/or the progression of pressure ulcers not only because of their underlying diseases, but also because of limited mobility and deconditioned states of health.


To assess whether treating high-risk patients with a prophylactic sacral dressing decreases the incidence of unit-acquired sacral pressure ulcers.


An evidence-based tool for identifying patients at high risk for pressure ulcers was used in 3 intensive care units at an urban tertiary care hospital and academic medical center. Those patients deemed at high risk had a prophylactic sacral dressing applied. Incidence rates were collected and compared for the 7 months preceding use of the dressings and for 7 months during the trial period when the dressing was used.


After the sacral dressing began being used, the number of unit-acquired sacral pressure ulcers decreased by 3.4 to 7.6 per 1000 patient days depending on the unit.


A prophylactic sacral dressing may help prevent unit-acquired sacral pressure ulcers. Implementation of an involved care team with heightened awareness and increased education along with a prophylactic sacral dressing in patients deemed high risk for skin breakdown are all essential for success.

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