Sheepskin reduces the incidence of pressure ulcers by 58 per cent.

A major cause of patient pain and suffering and additional healthcare costs in hospitals and aged care facilities - pressure ulcers (bed sores)- can be more than halved by using a simple but effective bedding overlay product developed by CSIRO.

A recent 'randomised controlled trial' (RCT) involving CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology, Deakin and Melbourne universities and Royal Melbourne, Fremantle and St Vincent's hospitals, has confirmed that the Australian Medical Sheepskin (AMS) reduces the incidence of pressure ulcers by 58 per cent.

"Pressure ulcers in hospital patients are common and costly but are preventable where high-performance Australian Medical Sheepskins are used," says the study's Chief Investigator, Dr Ken Montgomery, of CSIRO Textile Fibre and Technology.

"A survey, conducted in the US in 1999, estimated the annual cost of pressure ulcers to the American healthcare system at $US3.6 billion. The results of this study therefore are significant for healthcare systems world-wide", he said.

"CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology has been tackling this problem since 1998 when -in collaboration with the Standards Australia - my team developed the new AMS Standard," Dr Montgomery says.

Specifically designed to reduce pressure, minimise skin-shear and friction and absorb moisture, the AMS is more supportive than previous products and can withstand multiple washes at 80C to achieve high-level thermal disinfection. It represents a significant advance in leather technology.

"The study confirms the effectiveness of the AMS in preventing pressure ulcers in a general hospital population at low to moderate risk of contracting these types of ulcers. It also extends the RCT findings of previous AMS trials, completed in 1999 at Fremantle Hospital," Dr Montgomery says.

During the six-month study, Dr Montgomery's team compared the susceptibility to the condition of 218 Royal Melbourne Hospital patients allocated a sheepskin mattress overlay, with a 223-patient reference group.

"Results of this study have confirmed that when used as a mattress overlay, the AMS can reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers by 58%. This represents a significant cost saving to the Australian medical system and patients," Dr Montgomery says.

Funding for this study was provided through a project grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology. A report on the study will be published in the Medical Journal of Australia today - 5 April, 2004.

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