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Ostomy Wound Manage. 1998 Mar;44(3A Suppl):14S-24S; discussion 25S.

Skin tears in institutionalized elderly: an epidemiological study.

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  • 1Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center NHCU (181), Washington, DC 20422, USA.


Skin tears in the elderly are a common alteration of aging skin integrity. Very little is found in the literature on the prevention, identification, and treatment of skin tears. During a six-month period, 154 skin tears were studied in a convenience sample of residents in a VA Nursing Home Care Unit and nine community nursing homes. Data were collected on demographics, medication use, laboratory tests, cognitive function, and activities of daily living (ADLs). Descriptive data on the skin tears were also collected and these tears were graded according to the Payne-Martin Classification System. Data analysis revealed an at-risk sample of very old, frail elderly who are predominantly women, dependent in ADLs, nutritionally compromised, and suffering from dementia. Risk factors associated with the occurrence of skin tears included stiffness and spasticity, sensory loss, limited mobility, poor appetite, polypharmacy, use of an assistive device, presence of ecchymosis, and a history of previous skin tears. Skin tears were small, occurred more frequently on the upper extremities, and half had no tissue loss. Most skin tears occurred in patient care bedrooms. The findings of this study provide an outline for the development of an at-risk profile, and establish the basis for educational programs for caregivers.

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