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Dementia Patients with Feeding Tubes at Higher Risk of Bed Sores

People in Kansas City that need to spend long amounts of time in bed, such as some nursing home residents, are highly susceptible to bed sores. Bed sores form when there is a blockage of blood flow to the skin, most typically from prolonged pressure that is applied to bony parts of the body.

A new study shows that patients bedridden with dementia who receive their nutrition from feeding tubes are at an increased risk of acquiring bed sores. Researchers compiled data from thousands of dementia patients. They concluded that 35.6 percent of patients with feeding tubes developed open skin, or stage 2, bed sores, while 19.8 percent of patients without feeding tubes got them. Researchers also found that dementia patients with feeding tubes had a 2.27 times greater likelihood of developing bed sores than those without them. Patients without feeding tubes were also 0.7 times more likely to show signs of healing in their bed sores than those without.

Researchers did not examine how feeding tubes caused bed sores, but they noted that the tubes may agitate patients, which may then require medical care staff to restrain and sedate the patients. Feeding tubes also carry a risk of bowel incontinence. Both of those factors can create and exacerbate bed sores.

Bed sores are characterized by four stages:

  • Stage 1 - discoloration of the skin
  • Stage 2 - shallow open wound of the skin
  • Stage 3 - deeper open wound that goes through multiple layers of skin
  • Stage 4 - deep open wound that goes into the muscle or to the bone

Bed sores can be dangerous wounds. The more severe the bed sores the longer the recovery period. Depending on the severity, people with bed sores are at risk of infection, gangrene, sepsis or amputation.

Source: U.S. News, "For Dementia Patients, Feeding Tubes May Increase Bed Sores," May 14, 2012

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