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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.

On this page

    What is a pressure injury

    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.

    Signs, symptoms, and prevention

    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.

    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 and people with dark skin tones tend to get purple or blue patches.

    There might also be discomfort or pain.

    New Zealand Spinal Trust video on how pressure injuries affect people

    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 2016 to June 2023, we accepted 4,104 claims for pressure injuries caused by treatment injury.
    • Over the same period, there were more than 3,414 claims for pressure injuries for people who have a serious injury claim with ACC.
    • The estimated cost of pressure injuries to ACC is over $17 million per year.

    What we’re doing to prevent pressure injuries

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

    • implementing the guiding principles for pressure injury prevention and management in Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand districts around the country 
    • a pressure injury in spinal cord injury (SCI) consensus statement has been developed to ensure a consistent approach to pressure injuries in people with SCI across New Zealand. With a particular focus on reaching ethnicities at higher risk of developing pressure injuries 
    • 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.

    Guiding principles for pressure injury prevention and management in New Zealand

    Pressure injury in spinal cord injury consensus statement

    This consensus statement has also been translated into multiple languages. Put 'consensus statement' into the search bar or download from our Resources section.

    Download this consensus statement in other languages

    Download or order national pressure injury prevention resources

    The New Zealand Wound Care Society (NZWCS) has resources available to view, print or download. 

    View NZWCS resources

    They also have a preventing pressure injury leaflet available in 15 different languages.

    NZWCS preventing pressure injuries leaflets

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

    Order online resources

    Other useful resources

    Te Tāhū Hauora Health Quality & Safety Commission has more information and case studies on how pressure injuries can affect people.

    Pressure injury prevention

    Pressure injury case studies

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

    New Zealand Spinal Trust pressure Injury prevention and treatment

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

    PPPIA resources

    Last published: 29 November 2023