Cochrane Summaries

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Can pressure ulcers be prevented by using different support surfaces?

McInnes E, Jammali-Blasi A, Bell-Syer SEM, Dumville JC, Cullum N
Published Online: 
13 April 2011

Pressure ulcers (also called bed sores and pressure sores) are ulcers on the skin caused by pressure or rubbing at the weight-bearing, bony points of immobilised people (such as hips, heels and elbows). Different support surfaces (e.g. beds, mattresses, mattress overlays and cushions) aim to relieve pressure, and are used to cushion vulnerable parts of the body and distribute the surface pressure more evenly. The review found that people lying on ordinary foam mattresses are more likely to get pressure ulcers than those lying on a higher-specification foam mattress. In addition the review also found that people who used sheepskin overlays on their mattress developed fewer pressure ulcers. While alternating-pressure mattresses may be more cost effective than alternating-pressure overlays, the evidence base regarding the merits of higher-specification constant low-pressure and alternating-pressure support surfaces for preventing pressure ulcers is unclear. Rigorous research comparing different support surfaces is needed.

This record should be cited as: 
McInnes E, Jammali-Blasi A, Bell-Syer SEM, Dumville JC, Cullum N. Support surfaces for pressure ulcer prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001735. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001735.pub4
Assessed as up to date: 
8 December 2010