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Could the SEM Scanner Reduce Pressure Sore Incidence to Zero?
- Posted by: curtislegalwp
- Category: pressure sores
The use of the SEM scanner to help identify pressure sores in people most at risk has been available for use for some time now in Britain and its use was the subject of an earlier blog on this site this year. The Isle of Wight NHS Trust has just been awarded Patient Safety Award of the year for their uptake of the scanner and the fact they have managed to get pressure sore incidence down to zero.
The SEM scanner is a tool for identifying symptoms of potential pressure sore development. The acronym ‘SEM’ stands for ‘sub-epidermal’ moisture. The epidermis is the medical term for the skin, so an instrument that measures the amount of moisture accumulating beneath the skin’s surface can predict just when a pressure sore is about to develop.
The scanner was trialled in two wards at St. Mary’s Hospital on the island in 2015 with very promising results. Of the 35 patients that it was used on, there were no pressure sores that were detected over the period of the trial. The average NHS hospital pressure sore incidence rate is between 20 – 25%, so obviously a dedicated nursing team coupled with scanners is likely to make a huge dent in the prevalence of pressure sores. The Tissue Viability Unit at St. Mary’s Hospital is now using the scanners to screen incoming patients rather than leaving it to when the sores have already developed. It is planned to roll out the use of the scanner across all wards at the hospital.
Of course there’s no point in having scanners made available unless nurses are trained to use them and do use them regularly enough to prevent any sores from getting the upper hand. One of the reasons why the Isle of Wight NHS Trust Board came away with an award (jointly with the scanner developers) was that the trial proved just how patient health and safety could be improved by such a simple early prevention strategy
What the scanner does is to pick up where pressure between bed and skin is leading to the development of an ulcer beneath the skin. The greater the moisture level detected, the more likely that a pressure sore is possible. With the scanner showing that moisture levels are critical it is much easier to mitigate the symptoms of bed sores, as pressure sores are also called. Basically, this means making sure that the patient is able to move or is moved often enough that no one part of the body is in contact with the bed surface for too long. A higher than usual reading from the scanner should alert the nurse to the situation, allowing an individualised patient care programme to go into action.
Full marks to the IOW NHS Trust, but it must be remembered that at this stage scanner uptake is still very patchy. NHS funding is still a very contentious problem and scanners are unlikely to be cheap. Pressure sores don’t just occur in NHS hospitals, either. They can develop anywhere where patients, especially the elderly, are bedridden for long periods. It would be comforting to think that the hundreds of Britain’s residential care homes can see why purchasing a scanner in their premises could cut out a lot of heart ache from relatives, pain and suffering from residents and, if used in conjunction with
In the meantime, anyone with elderly relatives that are confined to a hospital or home can only keep a regular check on their own loved one. If neglect is suspected and pressure sores are noticeable, then it is time to do something about it before the sore gets any worse. The first step is always to alert the staff and management about your concern. If you feel that not enough is being done and your loved one’s sores are getting worse, contact a solicitor to see what your legal options are.