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acute, chronic, definition, end of life, etiology, skin failure, term, wound care



  1. Dalgleish, Lizanne PhD, RN
  2. Campbell, Jill PhD, RN
  3. Finlayson, Kathleen PhD, RN
  4. Barakat-Johnson, Michelle PhD, RN
  5. Beath, Amy BSN, RN
  6. Ingleman, Jessica MSN, RN
  7. Parker, Christina PhD, RN
  8. Coyer, Fiona PhD, RN


OBJECTIVE: To map the use of the term "skin failure" in the literature over time and enhance understanding of this term as it is used in clinical practice.


DATA SOURCES: The databases searched for published literature included PubMed, Embase, the Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Google Scholar. The search for unpublished literature encompassed two databases, Open Gray and ProQuest Dissertation and Theses.


STUDY SELECTION: Search terms included "skin failure," "acute skin failure," "chronic skin failure," and "end stage skin." All qualitative and quantitative research designs, editorial, opinion pieces, and case studies were included, as well as relevant gray literature.


DATA EXTRACTION: Data collected included author, title, year of publication, journal name, whether the term "skin failure" was mentioned in the publication and/or in conjunction with other skin injury, study design, study setting, study population, sample size, main focus of the publication, what causes skin failure, skin failure definition, primary study aim, and primary outcome.


DATA SYNTHESIS: Two main themes of skin failure were identified through this scoping review: the etiology of skin failure and the interchangeable use of definitions.


CONCLUSIONS: Use of the term "skin failure" has increased significantly over the past 30 years. However, there remains a significant lack of empirical evidence related to skin failure across all healthcare settings. The lack of quality research has resulted in multiple lines of thinking on the cause of skin failure, as well as divergent definitions of the concept. These results illustrate substantial gaps in the current literature and an urgent need to develop a globally agreed-upon definition of skin failure, as well as a better understanding of skin failure etiology.