Disposable Versus Reusable Absorbent Underpads for Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Incontinence-Associated Dermatitis and Pressure Injuries

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The primary purpose of our study was to determine if there is a difference in the occurrence of hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPIs) and incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD) in incontinent adults using a disposable versus reusable absorptive underpads. We also compared hospital length of stay in the 2 groups.


Randomized controlled trial using cluster randomization based on inpatient care unit.


Four hundred sixty-two patients admitted to 4 medical-surgical study units participated in the study; 252 used reusable underpads (control group) and 210 subjects used disposable underpads (intervention group). The study setting was a 711-bed acute care hospital located in Brooklyn, New York.


Two units were randomly allocated to use disposable incontinence pads, and the remaining 2 units used standard, reusable incontinence pads. Data for PI and IAD occurrences were collected weekly by specially trained RNs (skin care champions) on the assigned units. A 2-level hierarchical linear model was used to analyze the effects of the intervention on primary and secondary outcomes separately from any effects of the unit of randomization.


HAPIs were significantly lower in the disposable underpads group: 5% versus 12% (P = .02). Rates of hospital IAD were not significantly different between the groups (P = .22). Analysis of a secondary outcome, hospital length of stay, was also lower in patients who used disposable underpads (6 days vs 8 days; P = .02).


Findings suggest that use of disposable incontinence pads reduces HAPI but not IAD occurrences. The effect of disposable, absorbent incontinence pads should be considered when initiating a hospital-wide skin and PI prevention and treatment plan.

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