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Number of Hospital Patients with Pressure Sores Increasing

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: April 18, 2006

The number of hospital patients with pressure sores, also called decubitus ulcers or bed sores, rose from 280,000 cases in 1993 to 455,000 cases in 2003—a 63 percent increase—according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • Pressure sores typically result from prolonged periods of uninterrupted pressure on the skin, soft tissue, muscle, and bone.
  • Vulnerable patients include:
    • The elderly.
    • Stroke victims.
    • Patients with diabetes.
    • Those with dementia.
    • People who use wheelchairs.
    • People who are bedridden.
    • Any patient with impaired mobility or sensation.
  • Patients 65 years of age and older accounted for 72 percent of all hospitalizations during which pressure sores were noted.
  • Patients 45 to 64 years of age account for about 19 percent of such hospital stays.
  • On average, patients admitted to hospitals primarily for the treatment of pressure sores stayed nearly 13 days. But the length of stay varied by age—patients ages 18 to 44 accounted for the longest average stay (14 days), while those ages 85 and older had the shortest stays (10 days).
  • Nearly 9 of every 10 hospital stays involving pressure ulcers were covered by government health programs—66 percent by Medicare and 23 percent by State Medicaid programs.
  • Hospital charges for stays principally for the treatment of pressure ulcers averaged $37,800, but average charges varied by payer. For example, the average charge to Medicaid was $39,100 while the average bill for the uninsured was $25,600.
  • The most common principal reasons for hospitalizations during which it was noted that patients also had pressure sores included:
    • Septicemia.
    • Pneumonia.
    • Urinary tract infections.
    • Congestive heart failure.
    • Respiratory failure.
    • Diabetes mellitus with complications.

The Nationwide Inpatient Sample is a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured. For more data, go to Hospitalizations Related to Pressure Sores, HCUP Statistical Brief No. 3, at

For more information, or to speak with a Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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