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More research needed to ‘reduce injury risks for ventilator patients’

Coronavirus has highlighted the problem of pressure injuries from lying face down for extended periods

Covid-19 patients on ventilators typically lie face down for up to 16 hours a day and are at risk of developing pressure injuries and skin loss, a Brisbane nursing academic has said.

Fiona Coyer, professor of nursing at Queensland University of Technology, has suggested that more research is needed into measures to prevent health complications from pressure injuries for patients on ventilators.

“Prone positioning is used to manage ventilator-associated lung injury as well as promote oxygenation in patients with acute respiratory distress,” she said in a university statement.

“These critically ill patients are in an induced coma and typically lie face down for up to 16 hours a day. On top of keeping these critically ill patients alive, clinicians are dealing with the particularly difficult task of preventing pressure injuries to parts of the body touching the mattress for prolonged periods.”

Coyer said that Covid-19 had highlighted serious problems caused by pressure injuries for patients using ventilators. She said alternative methods for preventing these injuries included silicone foam dressings, air mattresses to protect pressure points and headrests to avoid direct pressure on the eye area.

She said pressure injuries, commonly known as bedsores, were caused by unrelieved pressure from bones, which impedes blood flow and causes skin necrosis. Common pressure areas for prone patients are the forehead, chin, shoulders, knees and feet.

Coyer said the most common method of preventing pressure injuries was to move the patients’ position at least every two hours, but that this was difficult when patients were using a ventilator.