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Can Bedsores Lead to Death?

Left untreated, bedsores can lead to death. According to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), bedsores cause more than 60,000 fatalities in the U.S. every year. 

Researchers have noted that “individuals with pressure ulcers have a 4.5-times greater risk of death than persons with the same risk factors but without pressure injuries,” and that wound-related bacteria in the bloodstream can “increase the risk of mortality to 55%.” 

Renal failure and amyloidosis are the most common causes of fatality for patients with chronic pressure injuries. 

Bedsores are one of the most common types of injuries suffered by bedridden patients. As one might imagine, they frequently affect nursing home residents as well as younger incapacitated patients, such as those in comas or suffering from debilitating disease or paralysis. 

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are preventable with proper care. However, they continue to be a serious health problem in nursing homes and other facilities that care for the elderly, where incidents of pressure ulcers are on the rise. 

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The Development of Bedsores

Bedsores occur when pressure restricts blood flow to an area of the skin. Once blood is cut off, the affected skin slowly begins to die. In healthy individuals, pressure ulcers don’t have a chance to develop because these individuals are constantly repositioning themselves, even when sitting and sleeping. 

The average person repositions themselves more than 40 times every night. Doing so prevents the blood supply from being cut off to parts of the skin. However, incapacitated adults are incapable of shifting while asleep or awake. For this reason, caregivers take over the task of repositioning these individuals. 

The Progression of Bedsores

Once a bedsore has developed, it will follow a predictable path that could result in death if left untreated. Many health care professionals recognize four stages of bedsore progression. 

Stage One 

The affected area begins to turn red in individuals with lighter skin. People with darker skin will exhibit a purplish tint on the affected area. Burning, itching, and similar pain and irritation are common at this point. 

Stage Two 

More damage is visible at this stage. The area may appear scraped or be a completely open wound. Blisters may also be present. The pain level for sufferers is significantly higher, and the area surrounding the wound begins to lose or change color. 

Stage Three 

At this point, the damage to the affected area has spread below the skin’s surface, and a crater-like wound is now present. The pain is extreme, and the patient is at a higher risk of developing a bacterial infection. 

Stage Four 

By now, a deep wound has developed, and serious infections—including osteomyelitis, which refers to an infection of the bone—are likely to develop. Gangrene is also likely without treatment, as well as organ failure, sepsis and death.

Common Locations of Bedsores

Bedsores can develop anywhere on the body where blood flow has been severely reduced or cut off and pressure exists. However, pressure sores most commonly occur at sites on the body where a bone is directly under the skin, such as: 

  • Tailbone 
  • Heels 
  • Hips 
  • Shoulder blades
  • Ankles
  • Elbows
  • Toes
  • Knees
  • Back of the head 

The Treatment of Bedsores

As with any medical condition, the best time to treat pressure sores is before they develop or just as they are developing. 

Diligent Caregivers 

All nursing home staff members are obligated to follow a reasonable standard of care, which includes care plans for patients at risk of bedsores. This is the only way to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Well-trained and caring professionals will reposition their patients as often as necessary to prevent pressure injuries. 

Pressure Reduction 

If a wound has appeared, the first step of treatment is to relieve the pressure on the area of the body where the sore is developing. Once this repositioning has taken place, caretakers use special cushions and supports to protect the skin from further damage. 

Wound Cleaning and Dressing 

Pressure sore wounds need to be cleaned and dressed. Sometimes, this includes the removal of dead tissue to prevent infections from spreading to other parts of the body. Bedsores in their early stages of development may not need this treatment. 

Legal Action for Bedsores

In most cases, bedsores occur because a caregiver was derelict in his or her duty. This is often the result of systemic issues, such as understaffing. Thus, patients suffering from bedsores might have a viable personal injury claim against a member of the nursing home staff or other caregivers, including doctors, in addition to their claim against the facility. 

Schedule a free consultation with a law firm experienced in nursing home abuse and similar cases to discuss your options for pursuing compensation and beginning the healing process. 

Types of Lawsuits for Bedsores

Bedsore lawsuits are typically personal injury cases. In these cases, the victim was owed a duty of care by a person or an institution, and the person or institution failed in this duty. Additionally, the failure in this duty harmed the victim in some way. 

Bedsores and any related injuries, including dead tissue, gangrene, cellulitis and amputations, are common harms that form the basis of many personal injury cases of this nature. 

If your loved one died as a result of preventable bedsores, a nursing home wrongful death claim is appropriate. As stated earlier, there are more than 60,000 deaths each year that are directly attributable to the neglect of bedsores. 

Compensation for Victims

Fortunately, compensation is available for victims and their loved ones who have suffered from bedsores as a result of nursing home neglect or substandard care from other facilities. As in most personal injury cases, two types of damages may be owed to the victim: compensatory and punitive. 

Compensatory damages are for the purpose of compensating victims for the economic losses they suffered due to the injury. These types of damages include economic loss due to missing work and out-of-pocket expenses for further or proper treatment. Compensatory damages also consider pain and suffering. 

Depending on the level of maliciousness the court attributes to the defendant’s actions, plaintiffs may receive punitive damages as directed by the court as a deterrent to future offenses. 

If you or a loved one have suffered from bedsores while under the care of another, you are fully justified in exploring your legal options. Speak with an attorney at Levin & Perconti. A free consultation can be your first step toward getting the compensation to which you may be entitled. 

$1.4 million


against a facility located in the northern suburbs for a former nursing home resident who sustained injuries as a result of a pressure sore.

$2.8 million


record nursing home pressure sore settlement against a suburban Hillside nursing home and physician for a 59-year-old resident who developed multiple painful and infected bedsores which took four years to heal

$2.3 million


for the family of an 88-year-old assisted living facility resident who developed severe and infected bed sores which ultimately brought about her death. Her doctor was criminally indicted for his conduct and charged with involuntary homicide