Tackle pressure injuries from the bottom up with the right support surfaces

Just as a well-built house needs a strong foundation, pressure injury prevention starts with the right support.

woman in wheel chair smiling

In 2018, Medline evaluated more than 20,000 support surfaces in over 300 facilities. The results were astounding: Nearly 60 percent required immediate replacement due to visible holes or tears, staining, thinning, and compressed non-resilient foam.1 Because the right support surfaces are a crucial part of any pressure injury prevention program,2 it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge and consider the needs of your patients.

The numbers say it all

Results of a 2018 Medline evaluation of more than 20,000 support surfaces in over 300 facilities.1


Visible holes


Visible staining or thinning


Require immediate replacement


Require replacement soon

What is a support surface?

The National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel describes a support surface as “a specialized device for pressure redistribution designed for management of tissue loads, micro-climate, and/or other therapeutic functions.”2

The right support surface can aid in the reduction of pressure injuries by preventing tissue deformation and improving tissue perfusion3,4 through the effective use of pressure-reducing components including air, gel, water and foam.5 Most acute and post-acute patients come into contact with one main category of support surfaces: mattresses. Within the mattress category, there are two main ways they provide support: Self-adjusting mattresses have a system to redistribute localized pressure according to a patient’s profile, while foam mattresses are meant to conform to the contours of a patient’s body.

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Be sure to assess and discuss the right options for your patient population depending on their risk for pressure injuries or existing injuries.

High risk in the O.R.

To help prevent pressure injuries throughout a patient’s hospital stay, operating room table pads and stretcher pads should also be appraised for proper support. Pressure injuries can develop in as little as an hour after sustained loading,6 with approximately 66 percent of all pressure injuries beginning in the operating room.7

Factor in infection

Support surfaces also play an important role in preventing infections because “worn or damaged covers can let fluids inside,”8 which may transfer to subsequent patients and spread disease-causing bacteria. However, healthcare facilities don’t always realize the poor quality of their support surfaces and may fail to prevent infection.1

Bottom line

You can help prevent pressure injuries and infection with the proper support surfaces. For example, a thorough assessment of your existing mattresses will provide a custom “state of the surfaces” report that examines surfaces inside and out to let you know which items to keep and which to replace. In conjunction with the right skin health solutions, the right support surfaces can positively impact your goals to reduce and treat pressure injuries. If you’re eager to do more, read about pressure injury prevention and the products and programs that can help.


  1. Medline Mattress Assessment brochure; data on file
  2. (Accessed January 30, 2020)
  3. (Accessed January 30, 2020)
  4. “Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers/Injuries: Clinical Practice Guideline,” The International Guideline 2019, page 156
  5. (Accessed January 30, 2020)
  6. (Accessed January 30, 2020)
  7. (Accessed January 30, 2020)
  8. (Accessed January 30, 2020)