Pressure ulcers, or bed sores, result from sustained pressure applied to the skin, often occurring when a person spends long periods of time in the same position. For individuals with limited mobility, regular movement is usually impractical with a lot of time is spent in fixed positions. The bed is an area where individuals like these will be most at risk of developing pressure sores, meaning a proper pressure relieving mattress is an essential component to help protect the individual from pressure sores.
Pressure mattresses are designed and constructed to relieve as much pressure from their user’s body as possible. They need to maintain relief for long periods of time, and must also be comfortable for the user. Pressure relief can be provided in a number of ways, and there are three different types of pressure relieving mattresses: static mattresses (foam); alternating pressure mattresses (air); and hybrid mattresses (air and foam).
What is a static pressure mattress?
Static mattresses are a foam mattress, getting their name from their motionless nature. They can come in various types and combinations of pressure relieving foam. The different types of foam provide different levels of pressure relief, the higher relieving types usually reflected in the price of the mattress.
Static mattresses are best suited to preventing ulcers for the partially immobile, but the more specialist foam types can be effective in helping to heal grade 1 ulcers, although manual repositioning of the mattress user by a carer is still essential.
What is an alternating pressure mattress?
Alternating pressure mattresses, also known as hospital air mattresses, air flow mattresses and air pressure mattresses, have an element of motion, usually by using air cells.
A standard alternating pressure mattress is a series of air cells that inflate and deflate alternately. An air pump is used to inflate and deflate the cells, providing movement across the user’s skin.
The air cells that are inflated support the user whilst the deflated air cells provide total pressure relief to the skin above them. The air pump then inflates the deflated cells and deflates the inflated cells, ensuring the whole body experiences movement and periods of no pressure.
There are some alternating pressure mattresses that have a perforated air cells. These provide very low interface pressure, meaning that the user effectively hovers just above the mattress surface, ensuring extreme pressure relief. They provide a constant flow of cool dry air, accelerating the healing of pressure sores.
Alternating pressure mattresses are typically used to heal pressure ulcers. They reduce the need for manual repositioning and provide consistent pressure relief. The more severe the ulcer is, the more specialist the mattress will need to be. Like static mattresses, price will usually dictate the mattress’ capability, but it is important that you are confident that the mattress you are buying will effectively provide the care you are looking for.
What is a hybrid pressure mattress?
Hybrid pressure mattresses combine both alternating pressure and static mattress systems into one mattress. This is usually in the form of alternating air cells inset in a foam mattress surround with a soft foam topper. Hybrid pressure mattresses provide advanced pressure relief that an alternating air pressure mattress brings, whilst still maintaining the high level of comfort found in a static foam pressure mattress.
The majority of hybrid pressure mattresses require a mains-powered air pump to operate the integral alternating air cells. However, through new innovative technology, hybrid mattresses are now available as a completely non-powered unit, using air cells that inhale and exhale naturally as pressure is exerted on the mattress surface. See the Opera® Synergy Hybrid (pictured).
What are the two different forms of pressure mattresses?
Pressure care mattress are available in two different forms; an overlay system, or a full replacement system.
Overlay mattress systems
An overlay system is a shallow depth mattress that is designed to be used on existing mattresses. They are usually about 4”-5” in depth, see the Opera® Relieve Air Mattress, and are laid on top of an existing mattress or underlay. They are ideal for where the user is not at high risk of developing a pressure ulcer, has an existing mattress that they wish to keep using, and are looking for a lower cost option. The overlay provides pressure care qualities whilst the existing mattress provides a base for comfort and depth.
Full-replacement mattress systems
A full replacement system is a pressure care mattress that is only to be used as a single unit. They are capable of providing pressure care and comfort without a base and are usually 6”+. Full replacement systems are focused purely on providing pressure relief which means they are better performers at providing pressure care, particularly for higher risk users.
If you are at risk or suffer from pressure ulcers, buying the right mattress to provide the best pressure care is the most important factor to get right. More help can be found by ringing 01482 210021.