How does a simple sore spot, caused by the pressure of a patient’s own body against the bed he or she is in or some other object, end up resulting in death?

Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy for a small pressure sore, also known as bedsore or pressure ulcer, to rapidly progress to a more severe stage—leaving the victim with an open wound through which bacteria can enter his or her body. Once that happens, the victim can develop a condition called sepsis.

Sepsis is an infection that is carried through the blood stream of the victim. As the victim’s body tries to fight back against the infection, his or her internal organs can all become inflamed. The inflammation and infection can combine to eventually cause wide-spread organ failure and then death.

The key to surviving sepsis is early diagnosis—once organ failure begins or other signs of severe infection sets in, the likelihood of survival drops significantly.

The truly tragic aspect of deaths that occur this way is that pressure sores are entirely preventable with the right attention and care. Medical professionals have long known that pressure sores are a risk factor for anyone who is in poor health and requires bed rest. The more immobile the patient, the more he or she needs to be repositioned at regular intervals. Regular skin checks should also be performed to look for signs that pressure sores are developing.

Even patients that are relatively mobile can fall victim to pressure sores. For example, the family of a Texas woman who died after being admitted to a nursing home for a broken leg alleges that the nursing home failed to detect a pressure sore that was caused by an immobilizer that had been placed on her leg while it was healing. The pressure sore went unnoticed and untreated until the victim’s tendons were exposed. Her leg was eventually amputated.

Even with that drastic measure, however, it was too late: the victim continued to decline until she died. The family is suing the nursing home for negligence since it failed to monitor for pressure ulcers and provide quick care for the one that developed.

Pressure ulcers are avoidable injuries and should always be considered a possible sign of nursing home neglect. When they lead to the wrongful death of your loved one, consider contacting an attorney for a consultation as soon as possible.

Source: Mayo Clinic, “Diseases and Conditions: Bedsores (pressure sores),” accessed Jan. 16, 2017