Pressure sores and wheelchair users

Pressure sores in individuals who rely on wheelchairs are a serious concern within the healthcare industry.

Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, can be painful, debilitating, and in some cases, life-threatening.

In this article, we will explore the causes, consequences, and prevention of pressure sores in wheelchair users, as well as the legal aspects of clinical negligence in these cases.

The Causes of Pressure Sores

Pressure sores develop when there is prolonged pressure on specific areas of the body, typically over bony prominences like the tailbone, hips, and heels. For wheelchair users, the constant pressure on these areas can lead to tissue damage, especially if they do not receive proper care and support.

The Consequences of Pressure Sores

Pressure sores can progress through several stages, from mild redness and discomfort to open wounds that may become infected. In severe cases, pressure sores can result in systemic infections, sepsis, or even death. For wheelchair users, these complications can lead to loss of mobility, independence, and a significantly reduced quality of life.

Preventing pressure sores in wheelchair users is a shared responsibility between healthcare providers and patients. However, if healthcare professionals fail to meet the standard of care, it can lead to pressure sore development with hospital admissions and long and lengthy treatment with a risk of an increase to someone’s ability to fully live their life.

Pressure sores and osteomyelitis

While pressure sores may appear as superficial skin damage at first, they can have severe consequences, one of which is the development of osteomyelitis.

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that occurs when bacteria or other pathogens invade the bone.
Pressure sores create a gateway for infection as they often expose underlying tissues and can extend deep into the body. When these open wounds become contaminated with bacteria, especially if left untreated, the risk of infection spreading to adjacent bone structures increases significantly.

Once bacteria infiltrate the bone, they can trigger inflammation, leading to osteomyelitis. This condition can be excruciatingly painful and challenging to treat, as it requires aggressive antibiotic therapy, and in some cases, surgical intervention to remove infected bone tissue.

Left untreated, osteomyelitis can cause bone destruction and spread to the bloodstream, leading to systemic complications.


Preventing pressure sores through proper care, repositioning, and maintaining skin hygiene is crucial to avoid the potential development of osteomyelitis. Regular monitoring and early intervention for pressure sores are essential to reduce the risk of severe complications like osteomyelitis.

Pressure sores in wheelchair users are preventable. It is crucial for healthcare providers to perform thorough assessments, implement preventive measures, and ensure the well-being of wheelchair users. Patients and their families must also be vigilant and informed about the risks and prevention of pressure sores.

Where there have been issues in the care of a wheelchair user leading to them developing pressure sores which could have been avoided, an investigation in to whether that care was negligent may help to provide answers to prevent it happening in the future and compensation for the harm caused. 

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