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Helping prevent pressure injuries

Pressure injuries can develop quickly in people who are sitting or lying for long periods. They can take a toll on the person and their whānau, but most are preventable.

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    When people stay in one position for too long, their skin and flesh can get damaged.

    The damage can range from a blister to a deep open wound, which can be difficult to treat. It might take months to recover. During this time a person may experience:

    • social isolation
    • hospitalisation
    • employment issues
    • financial impacts.

    It can also take a toll on the person's whānau.

    Pressure injuries are also known as bedsores, pressure sores, pressure areas, or pressure ulcers. They can develop in a matter of hours.

    Anyone can get a pressure injury, but they’re most common for people who are:

    • sitting or lying for long periods
    • using a wheelchair
    • using a piece of medical equipment that has contact with the skin.

    People are more likely to get a pressure injury if they:

    • sit or lie for long periods of time
    • have damp skin from sweating or incontinence
    • have loss of feeling or poor blood flow
    • don’t eat a balanced diet or stay hydrated
    • regularly use medical equipment that touches the skin.

    Watch the video to find out more about how pressure injuries affect people:

    Signs, symptoms, and prevention

    The first sign of a pressure injury is often a discoloured area that doesn’t turn white when pressed.

    • People with light skin tones tend to get red patches.
    • People with dark skin tones tend to get purple or blue patches.

    There might also be discomfort or pain.

    Find out more about preventing and identifying pressure injuries:

    How to prevent pressure injuries at home [PDF on NZ Wound Care Society website]

    Pressure injuries and ACC

    Thousands of people get a pressure injury every year in New Zealand, even though evidence tells us most are preventable.

    They impact people and the health system by:

    • delaying a return to everyday life
    • prolonging hospital stays
    • causing death in some severe cases.

    Stats and facts

    • From July 2014 to June 2020, we accepted 2,571 claims for pressure injuries caused by treatment injury.
    • Over the same period, there were more than 3,000 claims for pressure injures for people who have a serious injury claim with ACC.
    • The estimated cost of pressure injuries to ACC is over $19 million per year.

    What we’re doing to prevent pressure injuries

    We have a major programme of work underway aimed at preventing and reducing the impact of pressure injuries by:

    • implementing the Guiding Principles for Pressure Injury Prevention and Management in DHBs around the country
      Guiding Principles for Pressure Injury Prevention and Management in NZ (2017)
    • focussing on prevention and treatment of pressure injuries for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI)
    • reviewing pressure injury education for the registered and unregulated health workforce
    • investigating opportunities within ACC to improve pressure injury prevention
    • making pressure injury prevention and management information available and accessible.

    Download or order national pressure injury prevention resources

    You can order free copies within New Zealand through our online ordering system.

    ACC’s online resource ordering system

    Or you can download the resources as PDFs from the NZ Wound Care Society website.

    Download preventing pressure injury posters:

    Download preventing pressure injury leaflets:

    Other useful resources

    Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand (HQSC) has more information and case studies on how pressure injuries can affect people.

    Pressure injury prevention – HQSC website

    Pressure injury case studies – HQSC website

    The New Zealand Spinal Trust website has peer-led education videos.

    Pressure Injury prevention and treatment – NZ Spinal Trust

    Pan Pacific Pressure Injury Alliance (PPPIA) has the international clinical practice guideline and classification documents for different skin pigmentations.

    2019 Pressure Injury Clinical Practice Guideline

    PPPIA skin pigmentation resources (warning: graphic images)

    Last published: 22 March 2021