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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Aug;85(8):1257-64.

Patterns of recurrent pressure ulcers after spinal cord injury: identification of risk and protective factors 5 or more years after onset.

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  • 1College of Health Professions, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.



To identify risk and protective factors associated with a history of recurrent pressure ulcers among participants with spinal cord injury (SCI).


A mail survey was used to identify factors associated with the presence or absence of recurrent pressure ulcers.


A large specialty hospital in the southeastern United States.


All participants had traumatic SCI, were nonambulatory, 18 years or older, and had been injured at least 5 years. A total of 826 subjects participated, 633 of whom reported a pressure ulcer history that could be classified as to whether they did or did not have a history of recurrent pressure ulcers.


Not applicable.


History of pressure ulcers was measured by a single item that required participants to classify their history into 1 of 5 options, ranging from never having any pressure ulcers to having almost continuous pressure ulcers, often requiring hospitalization. Those who either never had a pressure ulcer or had them mostly for a short period after SCI onset were classified as nonrecurrent, whereas those who reported at least 1 per year were classified as recurrent.


Seventy percent of the participants failed to report recurrent pressure ulcers (never had any or had them only immediately after SCI onset), whereas 13% reported a clear pattern of recurring pressure ulcers of 1 or more per year. Logistic regression analyses suggested several general behaviors were protective for recurrent pressure ulcers, including lifestyle, exercise, and diet. Yet none of the behaviors generally recommended during inpatient rehabilitation specifically to prevent pressure ulcers (eg, skin checks weight shifts) were associated with pressure ulcer history. Only 2 risk behaviors were identified (number of cigarettes smoked, use of medication for sleep), although several proxy variables were related to pressure ulcer history.


Pressure ulcer history is a more viable measure of pressure ulcer outcomes than measures taken at a single point in time (current), over a brief period (eg, 1y), or those relying on critical events occurring at any time since SCI onset (ie, surgeries to repair pressure ulcers). A healthy lifestyle appears to be strongly associated with avoiding pressure ulcers, whereas the efficacy of specific prevention behaviors was not demonstrated. Problem solving and coping strategies should be targets for further research.

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