Prolonged pressure is often viewed as the most important factor in pressure ulcers but skin microclimate (temperature, humidity and airflow next to the skin surface) is an indirect pressure ulcer risk factor.
What is microclimate?
Today, the use of the term microclimate in relation to pressure ulcers usually refers to:
- skin surface or tissue temperature and
- humidity or skin surface moisture at the body–support surface interface.
(Pressure ulcer prevention: pressure, shear, friction and microclimate in context, 2020)
How does temperature and moisture effect pressure ulcers?
Data suggests that temperature and/or moisture extremes increase skin sensitivity and makes them more susceptible to the damaging effects of pressure, shear and friction. Therefore, the overall aim should be to keep the skin cool and dry. This can be achieved by using medical equipment with microclimate properties.
How can you manage microclimate?
There are several ways to help regulate the skins microclimate and help prevent pressure ulcers from forming:
Repositioning is effective for controlling microclimate by allowing the air to flow to areas of the skin which were previously in contact with the support surface. It also allows perspiration to evaporate. Repositioning can put added pressure on to care staff as it needs to be done frequently. The OSKA Series5 mattress can help relieve nursing time by offering automatic repositioning to the patient. Set the mattress to the patients weight and the mattress will tilt 20 degrees to each side every 10 minutes, 5 minutes on each side. This has been proven to be an effective method in the treatment of pressure ulcers.
Any surface which comes into contact with the skin has the potential to alter microclimate by contributing to moisture and heat build up. OSKA have overcome this problem by designing mattress covers with breathable, vapour permeable properties which means the air can flow through the material and circulate around the patients body. Commonly, foam surfaces are known to have poor heat transfer properties but OSKA has designed a foam called Aerolite which combats this problem by allowing the air to flow through the foam reducing heat and moisture build up. This feature allows for additional airflow.
Microclimate is an important element on any piece of medical equipment including beds and chairs. Our seating range uses breathable 4 way stretch fabric on the main parts of the chair where the body comes into contact with the fabric to help keep the skin cool and our range of beds include mattress platforms which have slots in, instead of being a solid piece of material, to help with airflow.
When choosing medical equipment ensure that all elements are considered to help manage microclimate while providing ultimate comfort in order to provide the patient with a surface suitable in the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.
For more information on any of the above please ask OSKA.
2020. Pressure Ulcer Prevention: Pressure, Shear, Friction And Microclimate In Context. [ebook] London: Kathy Day, p.19. Available at: <https://www.woundsinternational.com/uploads/resources/5a517b64dacfb4fee06c221412f0b4e9.pdf> [Accessed 21 September 2020].OSKA®September 21, 2020