Get the most benefit from support surfaces

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Kristen Thurman
Kristen Thurman

Despite the use of support surfaces, over 2.5 million people each year still acquire pressure ulcers.  This raises certain questions in regards to the use of support surfaces, such as:  How does a facility select the best support surfaces for individual needs? Is the surface functioning properly? Has the hospital staff made the appropriate selections for individuals on adjustable specialty surfaces?  When has a support surface reached its end of usable life? 

A large, urban hospital in Detroit, Michigan utilized M.A.P™ by Wellsense, a continuous pressure mapping system, to monitor the functionality and appropriateness of selected support surfaces with individualized patients. Important real-time, visual feedback on the interface pressure between individual patients and their support surface was provided to caregivers so they could promptly act upon identified areas of high pressure.

In one case, when a newly-admitted patient was placed on a standard hospital foam mattress outfitted with the pressure mapping system, the caregivers noticed that even after multiple attempts at repositioning, very high pressures persisted between the support surface and the patient. Only when a new standard foam mattress was ordered and outfitted with the pressure mapping system did all contact areas then display much lower pressures. The caregivers discovered that the original support surface was at its end of life, however, they were blinded to the surface's poor condition without the use of the pressure mapping system. The caregivers at this hospital felt that the pressure mapping system helped them to assess a high-risk situation that could have set the patient up to develop a pressure ulcer if the original support surface had continued to be utilized.

With a pressure mapping system, healthcare providers are now also able to better match the support surface to the individual patient's need. When providers are not able to visualize the interface pressures between the patient and the support surface, air mattresses are adjusted only by the patient's weight. With the use of the M.A.P™, caregivers are now able to adjust air mattresses to maximize therapeutic value for individual patients.

Many caregivers have also used the M.A.P™ successfully to detect inappropriate settings on air mattresses for individual patients. Often when transferring patients, instead of using the max inflate button which will return the mattress to its preset settings after 10-15 minutes, support surfaces are maximally inflated manually and then never reset back down to therapeutic range again. If patients are left on over inflated air mattresses too long, high pressures could contribute to skin breakdown. By using the biofeedback of the M.A.P™, caregivers are able to see if the mattress was in fact readjusted for the patient or if it was left overly inflated, causing high pressures on the patient. These inappropriate settings are not always obvious without the M.A.P™ image.  Often these mattresses are blamed for causing bedsores, when if they had been used appropriately, they could have helped prevent them. 

The real-time, continuous feedback of the M.A.P™ system allows caregivers to easily monitor the appropriateness and proper functionality of each support surface to maximize therapeutic value.  Get the most benefit from your support surfaces through continuous interface pressure monitoring.

Kristen Thurman, PT, CWS is the Director of Clinical Services at Wellsense USA, Inc.  She can be reached at

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