Pressure Sores and Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome: UC Davis Quality Improvement Initiative

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The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel estimates pressure sore care to approach $11 billion annually. It is not uncommon for these patients to present to the emergency department (ED) with a chief concern of a pressure sore, while concurrently carrying an undiagnosed infectious process that is the culprit for the acute presentation, rather than the chronic pressure injury. We aim to identify patients who met systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria at ED presentation who were referred to plastic and reconstructive surgery for pressure sore debridement prior to a complete medical workup. We hypothesize that a restructuring of the ED triaging system would help conserve hospital resources, reduce costs of pressure sore management, and improve patient care and outcomes by first treating primary, underlying pathologies.


This is a retrospective chart review of 36 patients who presented to the University of California, Davis Medical Center Emergency Department with a pressure sore and met SIRS criteria, but obtained a plastic surgery consult prior to a full medical workup. We defined SIRS based on standardized criteria: temperature greater than 100.4°F or less than 96.8°F, pulse rate greater than 90 beats/min, respiratory rate greater than 20 breaths/min or PaCO2 less than 32 mm Hg, white blood cell count greater than 12,000, less than 4000, or greater than 10% bands.


Fifty percent of patients (18/36) met SIRS criteria at ED presentation for their pressure sores. Of these SIRS patients, 9 (50%) had a diagnosis of urinary tract infection or urosepsis, 6 (33.3%) had sepsis of undefined origin, and 3 (16.7%) had other diagnoses such as osteomyelitis or acute respiratory distress syndrome.


Half of patients consulted while in the University of California, Davis Medical Center Emergency Department with pressure sores met SIRS criteria and received a plastic and reconstructive surgery consult prior to a full medical workup. We propose a new algorithm for triaging pressure sore patients be established in our institution that emphasizes a medical and surgical collaborative approach in order to reduce cost, conserve resources, and improve patient care.

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