• pressure ulcer;
  • elderly;
  • nursing home;
  • seat cushion;
  • wheelchair

OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy of skin protection wheelchair seat cushions in preventing pressure ulcers in the elderly nursing home population.

DESIGN: Clinical trial with participants assigned at random to a skin protection or segmented foam cushion. Two hundred thirty-two participants were recruited between June 2004 and May 2008 and followed for 6 months or until pressure ulcer incidence.

SETTING: Twelve nursing homes.

PARTICIPANTS: Nursing home residents aged 65 and older who were using wheelchairs for 6 or more hours per day and had a Braden score of 18 or less and a combined Braden activity and mobility score of 5 or less. Participants were recruited from a referred sample.

INTERVENTION: All participants were provided with a fitted wheelchair and randomized into skin protection (SPC, n=113) or segmented foam (SFC, n=119) cushion groups. The SPC group received an air, viscous fluid and foam, or gel and foam cushion. The SFC group received a 7.6-cm crosscut foam cushion.

MEASUREMENTS: Pressure ulcer incidence over 6 months for wounds near the ischial tuberosities (IT ulcers) were measured. Secondary analysis was performed on combined IT ulcers and ulcers over the sacrum and coccyx (sacral ulcers).

RESULTS: One hundred eighty participants reached a study end point, and 42 were lost to follow-up. Ten did not receive the intervention. There were eight (6.7%) IT ulcers in the SFC group and one (0.9%) in the SPC group (P=.04). There were 21 (17.6%) combined IT and sacral ulcers in the SFC group and 12 (10.6%) in the SPC group (P=.14).

CONCLUSION: Skin protection cushions used with fitted wheelchairs lower pressure ulcer incidence for elderly nursing home residents and should be used to help prevent pressure ulcers.