Mitigating risks linked to immobility during surgery

Patients undergoing operations can face an increased risk of pressure injuries, through immobility during surgery. So, what guidance is currently available on prevention and what solutions can help mitigate the risks? Mark Lee provides an overview.

Evidence suggests that any patient undergoing surgery for more than three hours faces a risk of developing pressure sores – decubitis ulcers – caused by immobility during the procedure and the use of anaesthesia. As well as causing pain, this obviously increases the risk of infection – which in turn can mean longer stays in hospital with all the associated costs to already stretched NHS budgets. As NHS staff work hard to reduce the waiting lists for hospital treatment, there is a renewed focus on reducing these ‘Hospital-Acquired Pressure Injuries’ (HAPIs).


The UK’s experts in evidence-based best practice and value for money, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), say pressure ulcers represent a major burden of sickness and reduced quality of life for people with pressure ulcers – and their carers.1 In 2018, it was estimated that the daily cost to the NHS to treat pressure related injuries was a staggering £3.8 million;2 and then there is litigation – which cost the NHS a further £20.8 million for cases involving pressure ulcers in 2017-18 – a figure representing an increase of 53% in three years.3 So what can be done? 

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