Pressure ulcers in veterans with spinal cord injury: a retrospective study.

Pressure ulcers are a major complication of spinal cord injury (SCI) and have a significant effect on general health and quality of life. The objectives of this retrospective chart review were to determine prevalence, duration, and severity of pressure ulcers in veterans with SCI and to identify predictors of (1) outcome in terms of healing without surgery, not healing, or referral for surgery; (2) number of visits veterans made to the SCI outpatient clinic or received from home care services for pressure ulcer treatment; and (3) number of hospital admissions and days hospitalized for pressure ulcer treatment. From a sampling frame of 553 veterans on the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center SCI roster, 215 (39%) were reported to have visited the clinic or received home care for pressure ulcers (ICD-9 code 707.0 = decubitus, any site) during the 3 years studied (1997, 1998, and 1999). From this sample, 102 veterans met the inclusion criteria for further analyses, 56% of whom had paraplegia. The duration of ulcers varied greatly from 1 week to the entire 3-year time-frame. Overall, Stage IV pressure ulcers were the most prevalent as the worst ulcer documented. Number and severity of ulcers predicted outcome and healthcare utilization. This study illustrates the magnitude of the pressure ulcer problem among veterans with SCI living in the community. Reducing the prevalence of pressure ulcers among veterans with SCI will have a significant impact on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ financial and social resources. Innovative approaches are needed to reduce pressure ulcer risk in veterans with SCI.