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Easing the pressure

Australian Medical Sheepskin could reduce the risk of sacral pressure ulcers in hospital and nursing home patients, recent research has found. Greta Marsh reports

Pressure ulcers are highly prevalent, painful and in many cases preventable. They are also very costly. There are many devices available on the market to help prevent pressure ulcers, however many agree there still remains a lack of knowledge about their effectiveness.

One such device is the sheepskin. More specifically, Australian Medical Sheepskin. Launched in 1998, it was a world first in pressure ulcer treatment and pressure ulcer prevention.

There are significantly reduced odds of developing a sacral pressure ulcer (PU) while using the sheepskin, found research recently published in The Medical Journal of Australia.

The study was an analysis of three randomised trials on the effectiveness of the Australian Medical Sheepskin in prevents sacral PUs– two among Australian hospital patients and one among Dutch nursing home patients.

Once the results were pooled, the odds of developing a PU were significantly reduced with the use of a sheepskin overlay in a patients or residents bed.

Of the 1281 patients across all three trials, 5.4 per cent in the intervention group recorded an incidence of sacral PUs.

This was compared to 12.2 per cent in the control group who maintained their usual care with a standard mattress. The relative risk reduction was 56 per cent, the study’s authors found.

Of the 113 newly acquired sacral PUs, 92 were grade 2 (least severe), 10 were grade 2 and two were grade 3.

While these results sound promising, the authors warn further research about the effectiveness of the Australian Medical Sheepskin is still needed.

“All three trails involved short observation periods, and this can be a critical stage, as it is known that many PUs develop when patients are relatively immobile and most PUs in nursing homes develop within the first three weeks after admission.”

How successful it is for patients confined to a bed for longer terms is still unknown, they say. To

But for now, the authors of the most recent study say that in practice, the Australian Medical Sheepskin is an “effective option for use in the prevention of pressure ulcers, and our findings suggest that guidelines need no longer discourage its use.

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