Do more expensive beds really make a difference?

Study casts doubt

Results of a new study cast doubt on whether expensive dynamic beds and support surfaces decrease the incidence of pressure ulcers better than simpler devices. 

The study compared the effectiveness of three types of supports surfaces among postsurgical patients. Researchers found no statistically significant differences among a static foam mattress replacement surface selling for about $240 and two dynamic low-air-loss beds mattresses that cost about $2,000 each.1 

The study included 110 patients, ages 6 to 89, who were admitted to a surgical intensive care unit and assigned to one of the three support surfaces. The Braden Scale was used to assess each patient’s risk of developing pressure ulcers. Nurses turned patients on a regular schedule and assessed each patient’s skin three times a week with the Braden Scale. 

Nine patients (8%) developed a total of 17 pressure ulcers, which occurred on the heels (6), coccyx or sacrum (5), and buttocks (6). Eight ulcers were Stage I and nine were Stage II. 

The authors state that "there were no statistically significant differences between types of support surfaces with respect to the risk of pressure ulcer development. Three patients on each of the three support surfaces acquired pressure ulcers." They add, "People tend to believe that any equipment that incorporates computer technology generally performs better than does a comparable piece of equipment without such technology, but our data did not support this assumption."
1. Ooka M, Kemp MG, McMyn R, Shott S. Evaluation of three types of support surfaces for preventing pressure ulcers in patients in a surgical intensive care unit. J WOCN 1995; 22:271-279.