Despite improvements in surgical repair of pressure sores, recurrence rates greater than 80 percent are reported, thus indicating that this difficult problem is not yet solved. Recurrence results in additional hospitalizations and increased medical expenses. Because associated general clinical and social issues are numerous for these patients, our physical medicine and rehabilitation colleagues are active participants in their perioperative medical care. In addition, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation also directs a complete postreconstruction rehabilitation and education program for them. The results of surgically repaired pressure sores for patients managed in this collaborative fashion have not been previously reported. Pressure sore patients at the Harborview and University of Washington Medical Centers are evaluated by plastic surgery colleagues together with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Patients believed to be candidates for complete postoperative rehabilitation are offered surgical repair and constitute this study cohort. Individuals who cannot cooperate with our protocol are treated nonoperatively and are not included in this study. A retrospective analysis of all 158 patients (mean age 34.5 years) operated on for 268 grade III and IV pressure sores between October of 1977 and December of 1989 was performed. Following surgical debridement and reconstruction, patients receive their principal medical care from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation service while the Plastic Surgery Department manages the surgical wounds. Graduated patient mobilization is initiated in accord with a mutually agreed upon standardized protocol. New or primary sores numbered 174 (65 percent), and recurrent or secondary sores numbered 94 (35 percent), Mean patient follow-up was 3.7 years. The overall pressure sore recurrence rate (recurrence at the same site) was 19 percent, and the overall patient recurrence rate (previous patient developing a new sore) was 25 percent. Recurrence rates of 22 and 15 percent were noted for primary and secondary pressure sores, respectively. On most recent examination, 131 patients (83 percent) had intact pelvic and perineal skin. These results support a collaborative approach to the management of high-grade pressure sore patients. Our protocol of mutual patient evaluation followed by surgical reconstruction and postoperative rehabilitation yields notably low recurrence rates of both primary and secondary sores. In addition, the high percentage of patients who manifest long-term maintenance of skin integrity demonstrates the excellent education in personal skin and self-care that this approach provides. Not only do patients enjoy successful and durable reconstructive results, but additional hospitalizations and health care expenses implicit to pressure sore recurrence are consequently diminished. This collaborative clinical effort remains our standard of care.
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