Comparing the effects of 3 different pressure ulcer prevention support surfaces on the structure and function of heel and sacral skin: An exploratory cross-over trial

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Special support surfaces are key in pressure ulcer prevention. The aim of this study was to measure the effects of 3 different types of mattresses (reactive gel, active alternating air, basic foam) on skin properties of the sacral and heel skin after 2 hours loading. Fifteen healthy females (median age 66 years) were included. Transepidermal water loss, skin surface temperature, erythema, stratum corneum hydration, epidermal hydration, skin extensibility, elastic function, and recovery as well as skin roughness parameters were measured under controlled room conditions before loading, immediately after loading, and 20 minutes post-loading in the supine position on the different mattresses. The highest increases in transepidermal water loss, skin temperature, and erythema were observed for the foam mattress after loading, indicating higher deformation and occlusion. Cutaneous stiffness decreased in all 3 groups, indicating structural changes during loading. There was a substantial decrease of mean roughness at the heel skin in the foam group, leading to a flattening of the skin surface. Study results indicate that the type of support surface influences skin structure and function during loading. The gel and air mattress appeared to be more protective compared with the foam mattress, but the differences between the gel and air were minor.

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