Research key to reducing patient skin injuries
Great grandfather David Low is finally able to sing again.
“I like to sing. But, I’m a little out of tune,” the retired engineer said from his apartment at Rozelle in Sydney’s inner-west.
Earlier this year, David, 76, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and spent several weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at RPA – some of them hooked up to a ventilator.
Like many COVID-19 patients, he was susceptible to hospital-acquired pressure injuries, or HAPIs, because he was immobile while in ICU.
HAPIs are painful skin injuries caused by unrelieved pressure and are most likely to affect patients who are unable to move or have a medical device in place.
Today, Sydney Local Health District is marking Stop Pressure Injury Day which is dedicated to raising awareness about hospital-acquired pressure injuries and how to prevent them.
Research has proven to be key.
During the pandemic, it’s been recommended COVID-19 patients are treated in a prone (facedown) position during mechanical ventilation. It’s often for prolonged periods.
“It puts patients at greater risk of getting pressure injuries, for example on their forehead, chest, pelvis, chin, shoulders and knees,” Dr Michelle Barakat-Johnson, the District’s Skin Integrity Lead, said.
So, Dr Barakat-Johnson, her colleagues at RPA ICU Thomas Leong, Rue Carey and Kimberley Counter, and at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital ICU in Queensland, examined current best practice to reduce the likelihood pressure injuries would develop in COVID-19 patients in prone and supine positions.
These include careful body repositioning, monitoring the position of medical devices, the use of special mattresses, pillows and headrests to redistribute pressure and the use of prophylactic dressings.
“Taking these steps may help to reduce the incidence of pressure injuries in our critically ill patients,” Dr Barakat-Johnson said.
The research was published in Wound Practice and Research, a leading Australian journal addressing wounds, wound healing and tissue repair. It features images of David during his time in ICU.
Dr Barakat-Johnson and Mr Leong also contributed to research about health workers use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, and how best to protect their skin.
Today, information about how to prevent hospital-acquired pressure injuries will be distributed to wards across the District.
David is thankful he didn’t experience any complications, like hospital-acquired pressure injuries.
“I put my trust in the doctors and nurses. I thanked them for doing their very best. They helped a lot in my recovery. I am fighting fit,” he said.
To view images of staff marking No Pressure Injury Day, please click here.