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Are Bed Sores Deadly?

Bed sores are the cause of nearly as many patient deaths as the fatal superbug MRSA. These deaths are avoidable, and with the right care can be prevented. Unfortunately, however, they’re still responsible for hundreds of deaths a year. Here’s a look at how bed sores are caused and why they’re fatal. 

What is a bed sore?

A bed sore, also called a pressure ulcer, is described as damage to the skin and underlying tissues due to prolonged pressure. Sores develop as small, tender areas of softened tissue, but as they continue to develop they become more painful and a serious health risk.  

Why are they fatal?

The prognosis for bed sores isn’t good. Research shows that 33% of people hospitalized for bed sores as the primary condition will die.
A bed sore, though easy to prevent, is difficult to treat. If not caught in an early stage, an open wound—resembling a shallow crater—will develop and grow deeper as the sore progresses into later stages. 
A bed sore itself isn’t fatal, but if left untreated, complications, namely infections, occur. There are a few different types of infections that can occur.
Necrotizing fasciitis is an infection that gradually eats away at the tissue surrounding the damaged area of skin. The infection can destroy muscle tissue in a matter of hours. If left untreated, a patient can die within 24 hours.  

Myonecrosis is an infection that’s seen with progressive bed sores that haven’t been treated or kept clean. The infection spreads quickly, destroying muscle tissue within minutes—due to the release of highly toxic infectious bacteria. The quick destruction of tissue results in system and organ failure, which is fatal.
Bone infection (osteomyelitis) occurs when an infection spreads deep within the inside of your bones and destroys cartilage in the surrounding areas. The loss of cartilage will also affect your joints, causing a decrease in mobility and increases your risk for amputation. Bone infections become fatal when left untreated—the infection spreads throughout your entire body. 

Last Updated: June 21, 2016

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