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Treatment

Treatment options for pressure ulcers (sores) typically include regularly changing your position, using special mattresses to reduce or relieve pressure, and dressings to help heal the ulcer. In some cases, surgery may be needed.

Changing position

Moving and regularly changing your position helps to relieve the pressure on ulcers that have already developed. It also helps prevent pressure ulcers developing.

After your care team has carried out an assessment of your risk of developing pressure ulcers, they will draw up a repositioning timetable. This states how often you need to move, or be moved if you're unable to do so yourself.

For some people, this may be as often as once every 15 minutes. Others may need to be moved only once every two to four hours.

You may also be given training and advice about:

Mattresses and cushions

If you're at risk of getting pressure ulcers or have a minor ulcer, your care team will recommend a specially designed static foam or dynamic mattress.

If you have a more serious ulcer, you will require a more sophisticated mattress or bed system, such as a mattress connected to a pump that delivers a constant flow of air into the mattress itself.

There are also a range of foam or pressure-redistributing cushions available. Ask your carer about the types most suitable for you.

But according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), there's limited evidence on what kinds of pressure-redistributing devices are best for the relief and prevention of pressure ulcers in different places, such as heels or hips.

Dressings

Specially designed dressings can be used to protect pressure ulcers and speed up the healing process.

These dressings include:

Ask your carer about which type of dressing they're using for the management of your pressure ulcer.

Gauze dressings aren't recommended for either the prevention or treatment of pressure ulcers.

Creams and ointments

Topical antiseptic or antimicrobial (antibiotic) creams and ointments aren't usually recommended for treating pressure ulcers.

But barrier creams may be needed to protect skin that's been damaged or irritated by incontinence. 

Antibiotics

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an infected ulcer or if you have a serious infection, such as:

Diet and nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains enough protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals can speed up the healing process.

If your diet is poor, you may see a dietitian. They can draw up a suitable dietary plan for you.

It's also important to keep up fluid intake to avoid dehydration, as being dehydrated can slow down the healing process.

Removing damaged tissue (debridement)

In some cases, it may be necessary to remove dead tissue from the pressure ulcer to help it heal. This is known as debridement.

If there's a small amount of dead tissue, it may be removed using specially designed dressings.

Larger amounts of dead tissue may be removed using:

local anaesthetic should be used to numb the area around the ulcer so debridement (if not being treated with a dressing) doesn't cause you any pain.

Surgery

Severe pressure ulcers might not heal on their own. In such cases, surgery may be required to seal the wound, speed up healing, and minimise the risk of infection.

Surgical treatment involves:

Pressure ulcer surgery can be challenging, especially because most people who have the procedure are already in a poor state of health. 

Risks after surgery include:

Ask your surgeon about the benefits and risks of surgery if it's recommended for you.