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Critical care, Intensive care, Length of stay, Medical intensive care, Pressure ulcer, Risk factors, Vasopressor



  1. Smit, Inge MSN, RN, CCRN
  2. Harrison, Lisa MSN, RN, ACNP, CCRN
  3. Letzkus, Lisa MSN, RN, CPNP, CCRN
  4. Quatrara, Beth DNP, RN, CMSRN, ACNS


Statement of the Problem: Instruments used to determine the risk of pressure ulcer development are universally applied to adult patients. These instruments do not differentiate between intensive and acute care patients.


Background: Pressure ulcers contribute to negative outcomes such as increases in pain and discomfort, risk of infection, hospital length of stay and costs, and a decrease in quality of life. Appropriately identifying risk factors is paramount to implementing a targeted care plan to avoid pressure ulcer development as well as pinpointing appropriate treatments if an ulcer develops.


Objective: The purpose of this nursing research study was to identify factors associated with pressure ulcer development in a medical intensive care unit.


Methods: A 15-month retrospective chart review of patients with pressure ulcers in a medical intensive care unit was performed. Statistics were computed on demographics and variables of interest including: pressure ulcer stage, vasopressor infusion, oxygen requirement, comorbidities, primary diagnosis, length of stay, mortality, age, gender, weight, Braden scores, and albumin level.


Results: The characteristics of 76 patients who developed pressure ulcers were evaluated. An equal number of men (n = 38) and women (n = 38) were included. Forty-seven percent had a stage II pressure ulcer. The presence of hemodynamic support with vasopressor administration (P = .016) and the length of stay (P = .021) were noted as the most significant factors in pressure ulcer development in this study.


Conclusions: Vasopressor use and length of stay are not factors that are accounted for in current pressure ulcer risk assessment instruments. The administration of vasopressor support and patient length of stay are potential contributory factors that need to be considered when assessing patients. Instruments specific to intensive care unit pressure ulcer risk stratification are warranted and should include the unique characteristics of a critically ill patient.