Sacral Ulcers: What They Are and How They Form
Sacral ulcers are a kind of bedsore, a common concern for people who have mobility issues or other disabilities that keep them confined to bed. These ulcers are a serious concern in nursing homes, where the elderly are commonly not given the attention they require and develop such injuries as a result. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in 10 people in nursing homes develop pressure injuries.
With that being said, here’s what you need to know about sacral ulcers and whether they’re the result of neglect or abuse.
What Are Sacral Ulcers?
Sacral ulcers are pressure injuries in the skin near the tailbone (the lower back and spine). This is known as the sacral area. As with all other types of pressure injuries, sacral ulcers result from immobility and pressure on a body part that doesn’t have enough fat to cushion it.
When this pressure restricts blood flow to the area, the skin in the sacral region begins to die off. Eventually, this can lead to open wounds, damaging the underlying muscle tissue and making an infection more likely.
This means that people who have been lying or sitting in the same position for days at a time are likely to experience pressure injuries like sacral ulcers.
Factors That Make Sacral Ulcers More Likely
First of all, someone who can’t communicate is more likely to experience sacral ulcers. Even if they can speak, they may be unsure how to fully express pain and communicate their needs.
It’s also more common for people with mobility issues to develop sacral ulcers — especially those bound to a bed. If someone can’t move independently, they can’t relieve the pressure they feel on their tailbone.
Poor diet can also play a role in the development of sacral ulcers and the complications that come with it. Without proper nutrition, the body cannot fight off infections resulting from pressure injuries.
Finally, those most likely to develop sacral ulcers suffer from incontinence issues, rest in humid materials for a long time, or lie on uncomfortable sheets. In these cases, the body encounters more friction, increasing the risk of an ulcer.
The Stages of Sacral Ulcers: Understanding Their Severity
When examining someone with sacral ulcers, it’s important to know how severe the problem is. This can help identify signs of neglect and inform the best treatment options for healthcare providers.
Stage 1 is when the skin has not yet begun to die. You may notice irritation in the area, including red or discolored skin. If the patient can communicate, they may express discomfort when touched in the area.
The signs of a Stage 2 sacral ulcer include the skin beginning to die off, with a small indentation starting to form. The wound may develop pus and leak if exposed to bacteria.
A Stage 3 sacral ulcer no longer resembles a blister. Rather, it’s now open enough to reveal layers of skin. There may be a strong and unpleasant odor, and you’ll likely notice fluids such as pus. Any tissue in the area will be discolored or otherwise look unhealthy.
A sacral ulcer that has reached Stage 4 will begin to damage nerves, muscles, or bones. It may give off a putrid smell, resembling rotting meat. This is when there is the highest risk of sepsis.
Treating Sacral Ulcers
Providers can treat pressure injuries like sacral ulcers by catching them early. For most, cleaning the area and keeping the person active is enough to reverse any issues.
If the ulcer shows signs of being in the third stage, most doctors will recommend surgically removing the damaged tissue. After removing the dead skin, it becomes necessary to repair the wound to prevent further infections.
When Do Sacral Ulcers Point to Neglect or Abuse?
Sacral ulcers progressing beyond the first two stages can point to systematic neglect or abuse. After all, if the person is in a nursing home or other care facility, they should be regularly examined for such issues, especially if their medical history indicates a propensity for ulcers. When the patient goes unexamined for so long that an ulcer reaches Stage 3, this is a clear sign of neglect.
Preventing sacral ulcers requires proactive care, with personnel trained to perform various hygiene and personal care activities. These include:
- Daily skin inspections
- Frequent repositioning
- Barrier cream for people with fecal incontinence
- Regular clothing and bedding changes
- Using specialty beds that tilt to ease pressure
- Offering nutritious meals
- Frequent cleansing of the sacral area
- Using suitable incontinence products
- Sacral dressing
If the caregivers have allowed a sacral ulcer to worsen, neglect or abuse are serious concerns, and taking quick action is essential.
Getting Compensation for Sacral Ulcer Sufferers
If a loved one has suffered a sacral ulcer due to the neglect of a nursing home or other care facility, compensation is available. This compensation covers personal care services, medical treatments, and various therapies. In many cases, it also compensates for the sufferer’s pain.
You may also be able to recover compensation if your loved one dies because of complications related to sacral ulcers. In these cases, you might be able to get compensation for burial expenses, medical expenses before death, and the suffering your loved one experienced before their passing.
At The Joel Bieber Firm, we are dedicated to helping you get the justice you deserve. We persevere to achieve the best possible outcome, no matter how difficult the case is.
Sacral ulcers are a serious concern that can quickly lead to infections and other health issues, so acting fast is vital. Don’t wait another minute; contact The Joel Bieber Firm to schedule your free consultation.