Pressure injuries are associated with increased morbidity, mortality, and cost. Patients with delayed sternal closure after cardiac surgery are at increased risk of developing pressure injury because of their reduced mobility and inability to undergo complete skin assessment.

Local Problem

Safe patient handling of patients with delayed sternal closure is challenging because of mobility restrictions, leading to increased risk for patient and staff harm.


An interprofessional team composed of bedside nurses, ergonomic specialists, a wound ostomy continence nurse, and cardiothoracic surgeons developed a patient mobility protocol for patients with delayed sternal closure consisting of levitating the patient for thorough skin assessment and care. A multimodal educational strategy was used to disseminate the new protocol. Patient information was collected on the type of surgery, results of the levitation, completion of the skin assessment, and subsequent interventions. Staff injury related to this work was monitored.


After implementation of the protocol, 84 levitations were performed including 50 patients. No staff injuries were reported. Comprehensive skin assessments and care were completed for 98% of patients. Five patients were identified with pressure injury development, and appropriate interventions were applied.


A standardized patient mobility protocol for patients with delayed sternal closure that leveraged available equipment was successful in reducing the risk for injury among staff and patients. The protocol allowed assessment and care and thus also reduced the risk for pressure injury development in these patients.


Development of an innovative protocol to safely mobilize patients with delayed sternal closure resulted in improved patient care and increased staff safety.

You do not currently have access to this content.