• pressure ulcer grading scales;
  • pressure ulcer risk assessment scales;
  • pressure ulcers;
  • prevention of pressure ulcers;
  • spinal cord injury

• Spinal cord injury (SCI) is associated with increased risk of pressure ulcers, but there are few published data about this in the United Kingdom (UK). This article represents a quantitative exploration of the occurrence of pressure ulcers in a UK spinal injuries unit (SIU).

• The technique used is a retrospective review of records: details of 144 completed first admissions for SCI between 1998 and 2000 were entered on to a database (SPSS) for analysis.

• Thirty-two per cent of patients already had pressure ulcers on admission to the SIU, while a total of 56% experienced an ulcer at some stage between injury and discharge from the SIU.

• Four pressure ulcer risk assessment scales were used (Waterlow, Braden, Norton and SCIPUS-A). These appeared to have moderate predictive power in this population.

• Pressure ulcers were found to be associated with increased length of hospital stay, density of lesion, surgical stabilization of neck injury before transfer to the SIU, tracheostomy on admission to the SIU and delayed transfer to the SIU after injury.

• Implications for practice are discussed.