Skin tears are a growing health concern in the United States. Roughly 6.5 million Americans are affected by chronic wounds, which account for more than $25 billion of annual healthcare spend, according to a study published in Molecular Medicine.
They haven’t always been considered major wounds — except to those who have had to endure them. Particularly problematic for older people and those who rely on durable medical equipment (DME) for mobility, skin tears occur when skin layers separate due to shear, friction, and/or blunt force trauma.
These tears can cause extreme pain, inhibited mobility, a high risk of infection, and diminished quality of life for those who experience them.
Because skin tears are usually slow to heal, they make DME users prone to secondary infections and chronic wounds, both of which can cause the cost of living and treatment at long-term care (LTC) facilities to skyrocket.
Even when treated, though, a lack of expertise and inadequate supportive equipment can lead to complications with the tears and even the need for surgery.
Increasing Burdens of Treating Skin Tears
In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers followed up with skin tear patients in London whose tears failed to heal properly. Among them, 82 percent underwent surgery to remove the unhealthy tissue and have grafts applied, spending an average 11 days of recovery in the hospital. Sadly, three of the patients never recovered, and two of these fatalities were directly caused by complications from the skin tears themselves.
Like all chronic wounds and pressure injuries, skin tears worsen over time, and the costs of managing them are compounded when caregivers fail to identify, treat, and monitor them properly. This leads to longer, more expensive treatments and can cause decreased quality of care. As a result, LTC facilities and caregivers can receive poor scores and suffer financial and reputational costs.
Beyond these costs, there can be legal implications. The International Expert Wound Care Advisory Panel estimates that average court settlements in cases of mismanaged skin wounds such as pressure ulcers can exceed $250,000.
The Role of DME in Reducing This Burden
The cost associated with treating skin tears is only one of many when it comes to long-term care. According to a 2018 Genworth report, the national price of a private room has surpassed $100,000. This marks a rise of almost 7 percent from the year before.
Maintaining the skin integrity of those who rely on DME can be a significant part of these expenses. It’s also one that LTC communities and assisted living facilities are paying more and more attention to, especially after experiencing the benefits of implementing Broda’s wide range of chairs and lifts.
Our combination of high-quality materials and innovative designs, like tilt-in-space and Comfort Tension Seating® (CTS) systems, offers optimal pressure relief to prevent skin breakdown and decreased skin integrity in four major ways:
1. Better pressure distribution with straps
Low-quality seating is one of the biggest reasons many DME products fail to prevent skin breakdown and injuries. Broda’s CTS technology addresses this by using straps that conform to the unique weight and contour of the user’s body. This allows for even distribution of pressure across all surfaces, greater oxygen flow, reduced heat and moisture buildup, and better retention of tissue health.
2. Improved comfort and mobility for lower extremities
If a skin tear in the leg isn’t treated in time, it can lead to leg ulcers and other issues. Our CTS system supports the lower extremities and distributes the weight of each leg evenly across multiple points. The footrest is height-adjustable, which ensures each leg is fully supported at all times and reduces the localized pressure buildup often caused by standard wheelchair footrests.
3. Tilt-in-space systems for optimal posture control
DME users who sit and lie in their equipment for most of the day are at a higher risk of suffering skin tears if their equipment doesn’t support proper posture during mobility. Our tilt-in-space systems give users comfortable, consistent back support, as well as a wide range of positioning options. They keep pressure away from critical areas while allowing users to maintain active positions and perform daily activities with greater ease.
4. Adjustable, reclining seating surfaces
Users who are unable to shift their weight on their own especially benefit from our fully adjustable reclining seat surfaces. The recline can be adjusted repeatedly throughout the day to decrease gravity’s effects on vital areas and skin tissue. With the additional support and maneuverability provided by tilt-in-space and CTS systems, the adjustable recline significantly improves blood flow and oxygenation for users who are completely dependent.
As high-quality DME continues to become a more widely recognized need, more LTC facilities, caregivers, and users will benefit. Better equipment can lead to a reduced number of skin tears, ulcers, and other pressure-related injuries for users, and facilities that get ahead of the curve will enjoy the benefits that come with providing better quality of life for residents.