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Br J Nurs. 2002 Sep;11(16 Suppl):S33-4, S36, S38, S40-1.

Pressure ulcer classification: defining early skin damage.

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  • Queen's Hospital, Burton Hospitals NHS Trust, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire.


This article is the second of a two-part series. The first part (Russell, 2002) looked at various systems and pitfalls of pressure ulcer classification systems. This article focuses on the difficulties of defining early skin damage. Patients' quality of life suffers significantly with a pressure ulcer. The smell of the exudate may be an embarrassment to the patient. The pain and the distress the patient will experience will not easily be forgotten, i.e. the number of dressings required for a deep pressure ulcer, even after the pressure ulcer has healed, will be a memorable intrusion to the patient's daily routine. Early detection of pressure ulcers and timely intervention are essential in the management of patients with pressure ulcers. Controversy exists over the definition of the first three stages of pressure ulcers, but there is consensus on the definition of deep tissue damage. If the pressure ulcer is covered with black necrotic tissue it is difficult to establish depth of the tissue damage. Intact skin can cause problems, as a sacrum may be purple but intact. There is still considerable debate with regard to reactive hyperaemia, as the exact time parameters for persistent erythema to occur are unknown. Little is understood with regard to the exact pathophysiology of reactive hyperaemia and this area requires further investigation. Blistered skin and skin tone also cause confusion in grading of pressure ulcers. The problems associated with classification of pressure ulcers, using colour classification systems, are discussed and the implications for practice are considered. The confusion surrounding early classification of pressure ulcers is discussed and it is hoped that such confusion can be addressed by standardizing training using one national classification system.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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