• July 12, 2024

Staging of Decubitus Ulcer for Nurses

decubitus ulcer article imageDecubitus ulcers, more commonly known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, are a significant concern in healthcare settings. These wounds develop due to prolonged pressure on specific areas of the body, leading to tissue damage. They are particularly prevalent among individuals with limited mobility, such as those who are bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or suffering from chronic illnesses. Decubitus ulcers are categorized into four stages or grades, each with its own distinct characteristics, complications, and treatment options. In this article, we will delve into each stage of decubitus ulcers, exploring their unique features and discussing nursing management strategies for optimal patient care.

Stages of Pressure Ulcer or Decubitus Ulcer

Stage 1: Initial Signs and Symptoms

Stage 1 pressure ulcer or decubitus ulcer

Stage 1 decubitus ulcers are the least severe and the easiest to manage. At this stage, the skin is still intact, but there is visible discoloration. The affected area may appear red, pink, or purple, indicating compromised blood flow and potential damage to the underlying tissues. Patients may report discomfort or localized pain in the affected region. It is crucial to detect and address Stage 1 ulcers promptly to prevent progression to more severe stages.

Nursing Management for Stage 1 Decubitus Ulcers:

Pressure Relief: The primary focus of nursing care in Stage 1 is to relieve pressure on the affected area. Frequent repositioning, at least every two hours, helps distribute pressure and reduce the risk of further damage. The use of pressure-reducing devices, such as specialized cushions or mattresses, can also be beneficial.

Skin Assessment: Regular skin assessments are essential to monitor any changes in the affected area. Nurses should document skin condition, color, and any alterations in sensation or temperature. Proper documentation ensures continuity of care and helps identify any deterioration.

Moisture Management: Moisture can exacerbate the development of decubitus ulcers. Keep the skin clean and dry. Incontinence management is crucial, as prolonged exposure to moisture can weaken the skin’s integrity.

Education: Patient and caregiver education is vital at this stage. Provide guidance on the importance of proper nutrition, hydration, and maintaining good hygiene. Encourage patients to participate actively in pressure relief strategies.

Stage 2: Partial Thickness Skin Loss

Stage 2 decubitus ulcer

In Stage 2, the decubitus ulcer progresses to a more advanced state. At this point, there is visible damage to the skin, which may present as an open sore, blister, or shallow ulceration. The affected area is painful and may show signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or warmth. Proper nursing care is critical to prevent further deterioration.

Nursing Management for Stage 2 Decubitus Ulcers:

Wound Cleansing: Cleansing the wound with a mild, sterile saline solution is essential. Avoid harsh antiseptics, as they can further damage the delicate tissue.

Dressing Selection: Appropriate dressing choice is crucial to promote healing and prevent infection. Transparent films, hydrocolloids, or foams are often used for Stage 2 ulcers. These dressings maintain a moist environment while protecting the wound.

Infection Control: Monitor the ulcer for signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or foul-smelling discharge. If an infection is suspected, notify the healthcare provider for possible antibiotic treatment.

Nutrition: Ensure patients receive adequate nutrition, as this is a critical factor in wound healing. Consult with a registered dietitian to address any nutritional deficiencies.

Continued Pressure Relief: Continue with frequent repositioning and the use of pressure-reducing devices. Proper positioning can prevent further tissue damage and promote healing.

Stage 3: Full Thickness Skin Loss

Stage 3

Stage 3 decubitus ulcers are more severe, with deep tissue involvement. In this stage, subcutaneous tissue and muscle may be visible, and the wound is typically larger and deeper than in previous stages. Patients may experience significant pain and be at risk of complications such as cellulitis or osteomyelitis.

Nursing Management for Stage 3 Decubitus Ulcers:

Wound Debridement: In Stage 3, wound debridement may be necessary to remove necrotic tissue and promote healing. This can be achieved through sharp debridement (performed by a healthcare provider) or enzymatic debridement agents.

Infection Control: Monitor for signs of infection and initiate appropriate treatment if infection is suspected. Prophylactic antibiotics may be prescribed in some cases.

Dressing Selection: Use advanced dressings, such as foams, hydrogels, or alginate dressings, to promote moisture balance and accelerate the healing process.

Nutritional Support: Collaborate with a registered dietitian to optimize the patient’s nutritional status. Protein and vitamin supplements may be necessary to support tissue repair.

Pain Management: Address the patient’s pain with appropriate analgesics as prescribed. Pain management is vital to enhance comfort and facilitate the healing process.

Stage 4: Full Thickness Tissue Loss

Stage 4
Stage 4 decubitus ulcers are the most severe and involve extensive tissue damage, potentially reaching down to bone or joints. These ulcers often result in long-term complications and can be life-threatening. Patients may experience intense pain, and wound care becomes more complex.

Nursing Management for Stage 4 Decubitus Ulcers:

Surgical Intervention: In some cases, surgical procedures, such as tissue grafts or flap surgery, may be necessary to promote wound closure and tissue regeneration. Consult with a wound care specialist or surgeon.

Infection Control: Stage 4 ulcers are highly susceptible to infection. Aggressive infection control measures, including the use of antibiotics, may be required.

Nutritional Support: Collaborate with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan to support tissue repair. Enteral or parenteral nutrition may be necessary.

Pain Management: Adequate pain management is crucial for patient comfort. Ensure patients receive appropriate pain relief, and consider consulting a pain management specialist.

Prevention of Complications: Due to the severity of Stage 4 ulcers, patients are at high risk for complications such as sepsis or osteomyelitis. Vigilant monitoring and timely intervention are essential to prevent these serious complications.

Deep Tissue Injury


This is another grade of pressure damage which is as severe as ungradable pressure damaage.

Deep tissue injury grading is given to Purple or maroon localized area of discoloured intact skin or blood-filled blister due to damage of underlying soft tissue from pressure and/or shear. The area may be preceded by tissue that is painful, firm, mushy, boggy, warmer or cooler as compared to adjacent tissue. Deep tissue injury may be difficult to detect in individuals with dark skin tones. Evolution may include a thin blister over a dark wound bed. The wound may further evolve and become covered by thin eschar.Evolution may be rapid exposing additional layers oftissue even with optimal treatment.

Staging with respect to layers of skin

Normal Skin

normal layers of skin

Normal skin consists of three primary layers. The outermost layer, the epidermis, acts as a protective barrier against the environment, containing various cell types, including melanocytes responsible for skin color. The middle layer, the dermis, contains blood vessels, hair follicles, and sweat glands, supporting the epidermis and providing nutrients. The deepest layer, the subcutis or hypodermis, comprises fat and connective tissue, serving as insulation and energy storage. Together, these layers maintain skin integrity, regulate body temperature, and protect against external threats, ensuring the body’s overall health and well-being.

Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3

stage 1, stage 2, stage 3

In stage 1 as you can see skin is intact, non blanchabale and there is erythema.

In Stage 2 there is partial loss of dermis and there is a shallow open ulcer.

In stage 3 there is full thickness skin loss and fat is exposed

Stage 4, Ungradeable Pressure Damage, Deep Tissue Injury

stage 4, unstageable and dti

In stage 4, full thickness skin loss can be seen along with exposed bone, muscle and tendon.

In unstageable pressure damage, area would be covered with slough or eschar and depth of sore would be undetermined.

In Deep tissue injury, you can see purplish skin discolouration and potential deeper tissue damage.


Decubitus ulcers pose a significant challenge in healthcare, with each stage requiring distinct nursing management strategies. Early detection and intervention are crucial to prevent the progression of these wounds. Nurses play a central role in the prevention, assessment, and management of decubitus ulcers, working in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care for patients at each stage of this condition. By implementing the recommended nursing interventions and focusing on prevention, healthcare providers can reduce the impact of decubitus ulcers and improve the quality of life for affected individuals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!