Diabetes, bedsores, and medical malpractice

Bedsores, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers—they have lots of names, but whatever you call them, they have dreaded consequences for patients. They form when there’s unrelieved external pressure that cuts off blood supply to tissue, killing cells and leading to ulcers.

When bedsores develop in hospitalized patients, they lead to longer stays. In severe cases, they trigger complications such as infection and sepsis that can kill a person.

Medical studies have shown that there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood that a person may develop bedsores:

• Being elderly: 2 out of every 3 pressure ulcers develop in people over 70 years old

• Not having good nutrition, particularly protein and albumin levels

• Being a smoker, which is an obstacle to wound healing

• Having poor circulation

Many other factors may come into play, too: surgeries, anesthesia, a lack of measures to keep the skin healthy, and failing to make sure the patient is padded, protected, and turned frequently.

There’s one additional condition that can play a major role in the development of bedsores: diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases that leave the body with too much sugar (glucose) in the blood.

There are two major types of diabetes. I bet you’re like me and personally know someone with each type.

Type 1 diabetes is also called juvenile-onset diabetes. It’s a lifetime condition where there’s a problem with the pancreas, the vital bodily organ that’s responsible for producing insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes have a pancreas that produces very little insulin or none at all. I went from kindergarten to 12th grade with a neighbor who had this type of diabetes. She was a smart and pleasant person who sadly lost her life to complications of this disease while we were in college.

Type 2 diabetes typically shows up in adults. In this type of diabetes, there’s a problem with how the body processes blood sugar. Medical experts believe that Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by diet and genetic factors.

How does diabetes fit in with bedsores?

Diabetes is a type of medical condition that affects the whole body. One of the organs that diabetic individuals often struggle with is their skin. This is because high blood sugar (glucose) levels dry out the skin, which hampers the ability to protect it from bacteria.

An study published in 2017 found that diabetic surgical patients have almost double (1.77x to be precise) the risk of developing bedsores. Researchers found the greatest risk occurred after cardiac surgery, followed by, in no particular order, general surgery and hip surgery.

Because diabetes can be a significant factor leading to bedsores, it’s important for doctors and nurses to take note of it and take special precautions, including:

• Keeping diabetes under control with proper medications, as needed

• Making sure the skin is kept clean and dry

• For bedridden patients, shifting position at least once every two hours, which redistributes body weight and relieves pressure

• Use of a specialty mattress to relieve pressure

• Utilizing pads or pillows to protect bony prominences

Unfortunately, some physicians, nurses, hospitals, and facilities don’t really think about diabetes, let alone take proper precautions to address the very real risks that it presents to bedsore development.

We’ve handled cases where patients had significant surgeries at well-known hospitals in Houston’s Texas Medical Center and went on to develop Stage 4 bedsores (ulcers so deep that you can see bone, tendon, or ligaments) despite being in an intensive care unit. Even if a bedsore somehow develops, there’s no excuse for allowing it to deteriorate into that type of wound!

If you’ve experienced poor physician and nursing care related to bedsore prevention and treatment, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
Article by

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.