Preventing pressure ulcers-Are pressure-redistributing support surfaces effective? A Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis

Elizabeth McInnes, Asmara Jammali-Blasi, Sally Bell-Syer, Jo Dumville, Nicky Cullum

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objectives: To undertake a systematic review of the effectiveness of pressure redistributing support surfaces in the prevention of pressure ulcers. Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Data sources: Cochrane Wound Group Specialised Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE and EBSCO CINAHL. The reference sections of included trials were searched for further trials. Review methods: Randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised trials, published or unpublished, which assessed the effects of support surfaces in preventing pressure ulcers (of any grade), in any patient group, in any setting compared to any other support surface, were sought. Two reviewers extracted and summarised details of eligible trials using a standardised form and assessed the methodological quality of each trial using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Results: Fifty-three eligible trials were identified with a total of 16,285 study participants. Overall the risk of bias in the included trials was high. Pooled analysis showed that: (i) foam alternatives to the standard hospital foam mattress reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers in people at risk (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.21-0.74) and Australian standard medical sheepskins prevent pressure ulcers compared to standard care (RR 0.48, 95% CI 0.31-0.74). Pressure-redistributing overlays on the operating table compared to standard care reduce postoperative pressure ulcer incidence (RR 0.53, 95% CI 0.33-0.85). Conclusions: While there is good evidence that higher specification foam mattresses, sheepskins, and that some overlays in the operative setting are effective in preventing pressure ulcers, there is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the value of seat cushions, limb protectors and various constant low pressure devices. The relative merits of higher-tech constant low pressure and alternating pressure for prevention are unclear. More robust trials are required to address these research gaps. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)345-359
    Number of pages14
    JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


    • Hospital equipment
    • Meta-analysis
    • Pressure ulcer
    • Prevention
    • Review


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