Q: Since pressure injuries occur in all healthcare settings caring for vulnerable adults, are they a designated public health issue? 

A: Pressure injuries affect up to 2.5 million U.S. patients per year, and conservative estimates of cost ranges from $9.1 to $11.6 billion per year., according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research.

Complications include pain, scarring, infection, prolonged rehabilitation and permanent disability. They are largely preventable, and 60,000 patients die each year as a direct result of pressure injuries. 

They are common across the healthcare continuum; pressure injury prevalence in long-term care ranges from 4.1% to 32.2%.  Despite these pressing concerns, pressure injuries are not a specific item on the research funding agenda of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are not a recognized public health issue. 

The statistics on pressure injuries are eye-opening when compared to more widely recognized public health threats. Pressure injuries cause more deaths in the U.S. per year than car accidents and guns combined.  

Given their prevalence, morbidity and cost, it is puzzling that pressure injuries are an underappreciated public health issue. Perhaps it’s time to face this issue squarely by recognizing its importance and scope and increasing funding toward research on pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment.

Medical education concerning wound care also needs a boost. Most doctors receive little training on pressure injuries. However, the imperative for physicians to become more involved in wound care has grown with the aging demographic and improved technologies that prolong life.

Preventing and curing pressure injuries is a multidisciplinary endeavor that will require better allocation of resources to research, technology, systems improvement and manpower.