Subepidermal moisture detection of heel pressure injury: The pressure ulcer detection study outcomes

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We examined subepidermal moisture (SEM) and visual skin assessment of heel pressure injury (PrI) among 417 nursing home residents in 19 facilities over 16 weeks. Participants were older (mean age 77 years), 58% were female, over half were ethnic minorities (29% African American, 12% Asian American, 21% Hispanic), and at risk for PrI (mean Braden Scale Risk score = 15.6). Blinded concurrent visual assessments and SEM measurements were obtained at heels weekly. Visual skin damage was categorised as normal, erythema, stage 1 PrI, deep tissue injury (DTI) or stage 2 or greater PrI. PrI incidence was 76%. Off-loading occurred with pillows (76% of residents) rather than heel boots (21%) and often for those with DTI (91%). Subepidermal moisture was measured with a device where higher readings indicate greater moisture (range: 0–70 tissue dielectric constant), with normal skin values significantly different from values in the presence of skin damage. Subepidermal moisture was associated with concurrent damage and damage 1 week later in generalised multinomial logistic models adjusting for age, diabetes and function. Subepidermal moisture detected DTI and differentiated those that resolved, remained and deteriorated over 16 weeks. Subepidermal moisture may be an objective method for detecting PrI.

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