Pressure ulcers (also known as pressure injuries, pressure sores and bed sores) are localised injuries to the skin or underlying soft tissue, or both, caused by unrelieved pressure, shear or friction. Specific kinds of beds, overlays and mattresses are widely used with the aim of preventing and treating pressure ulcers.
To summarise evidence from Cochrane Reviews that assess the effects of beds, overlays and mattresses on reducing the incidence of pressure ulcers and on increasing pressure ulcer healing in any setting and population.
To assess the relative effects of different types of beds, overlays and mattresses for reducing the incidence of pressure ulcers and increasing pressure ulcer healing in any setting and population.
To cumulatively rank the different treatment options of beds, overlays and mattresses in order of their effectiveness in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment.
In July 2020, we searched the Cochrane Library. Cochrane Reviews reporting the effectiveness of beds, mattresses or overlays for preventing or treating pressure ulcers were eligible for inclusion in this overview. Two review authors independently screened search results and undertook data extraction and risk of bias assessment using the ROBIS tool. We summarised the reported evidence in an overview of reviews. Where possible, we included the randomised controlled trials from each included review in network meta‐analyses. We assessed the relative effectiveness of beds, overlays and mattresses for preventing or treating pressure ulcers and their probabilities of being, comparably, the most effective treatment. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.
We include six Cochrane Reviews in this overview of reviews, all at low or unclear risk of bias.
Pressure ulcer prevention: four reviews (of 68 studies with 18,174 participants) report direct evidence for 27 pairwise comparisons between 12 types of support surface on the following outcomes: pressure ulcer incidence, time to pressure ulcer incidence, patient comfort response, adverse event rates, health‐related quality of life, and cost‐effectiveness. Here we focus on outcomes with some evidence at a minimum of low certainty.
(1) Pressure ulcer incidence: our overview includes direct evidence for 27 comparisons that mostly (19/27) have very low‐certainty evidence concerning reduction of pressure ulcer risk. We included 40 studies (12,517 participants; 1298 participants with new ulcers) in a network meta‐analysis involving 13 types of intervention. Data informing the network are sparse and this, together with the high risk of bias in most studies informing the network, means most network contrasts (64/78) yield evidence of very low certainty. There is low‐certainty evidence that, compared with foam surfaces (reference treatment), reactive air surfaces (e.g. static air overlays) (risk ratio (RR) 0.46, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.29 to 0.75), alternating pressure (active) air surfaces (e.g. alternating pressure air mattresses, large‐celled ripple mattresses) (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.93), and reactive gel surfaces (e.g. gel pads used on operating tables) (RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.22 to 1.01) may reduce pressure ulcer incidence. The ranking of treatments in terms of effectiveness is also of very low certainty for all interventions. It is unclear which treatment is best for preventing ulceration.
(2) Time to pressure ulcer incidence: four reviews had direct evidence on this outcome for seven comparisons. We included 10 studies (7211 participants; 699 participants with new ulcers) evaluating six interventions in a network meta‐analysis. Again, data from most network contrasts (13/15) are of very low certainty. There is low‐certainty evidence that, compared with foam surfaces (reference treatment), reactive air surfaces may reduce the hazard of developing new pressure ulcers (hazard ratio (HR) 0.20, 95% CI 0.04 to 1.05). The ranking of all support surfaces for preventing pressure ulcers in terms of time to healing is uncertain.
(3) Cost‐effectiveness: this overview includes direct evidence for three comparisons. For preventing pressure ulcers, alternating pressure air surfaces are probably more cost‐effective than foam surfaces (moderate‐certainty evidence).
Pressure ulcer treatment: two reviews (of 12 studies with 972 participants) report direct evidence for five comparisons on: complete pressure ulcer healing, time to complete pressure ulcer healing, patient comfort response, adverse event rates, and cost‐effectiveness. Here we focus on outcomes with some evidence at a minimum of low certainty.
(1) Complete pressure ulcer healing: our overview includes direct evidence for five comparisons. There is uncertainty about the relative effects of beds, overlays and mattresses on ulcer healing. The corresponding network meta‐analysis (with four studies, 397 participants) had only three direct contrasts and a total of six network contrasts. Again, most network contrasts (5/6) have very low‐certainty evidence. There was low‐certainty evidence that more people with pressure ulcers may heal completely using reactive air surfaces than using foam surfaces (RR 1.32, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.80). We are uncertain which surfaces have the highest probability of being the most effective (all very low‐certainty evidence).
(2) Time to complete pressure ulcer healing: this overview includes direct evidence for one comparison: people using reactive air surfaces may be more likely to have healed pressure ulcers compared with those using foam surfaces in long‐term care settings (HR 2.66, 95% CI 1.34 to 5.17; low‐certainty evidence).
(3) Cost‐effectiveness: this overview includes direct evidence for one comparison: compared with foam surfaces, reactive air surfaces may cost an extra 26 US dollars for every ulcer‐free day in the first year of use in long‐term care settings (low‐certainty evidence).
Compared with foam surfaces, reactive air surfaces may reduce pressure ulcer risk and may increase complete ulcer healing. Compared with foam surfaces, alternating pressure air surfaces may reduce pressure ulcer risk and are probably more cost‐effective in preventing pressure ulcers. Compared with foam surfaces, reactive gel surfaces may reduce pressure ulcer risk, particularly for people in operating rooms and long‐term care settings. There are uncertainties for the relative effectiveness of other support surfaces for preventing and treating pressure ulcers, and their efficacy ranking.
More high‐quality research is required; for example, for the comparison of reactive air surfaces with alternating pressure air surfaces. Future studies should consider time‐to‐event outcomes and be designed to minimise any risk of bias.