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Exclusive: Hospice staff report using new scanner has reduced pressure ulcer incidence rate

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The first trial of a pioneering new skin damage scanning device in an end of life setting has indicated that its use by nurses can reduce pressure ulcers.

According to those involved in the six-month trial, the incidence of press ulcers was reduced by nearly 50%, meaning around seven patients developed an ulcer.

“This is the first time we have seen our SEM Scanner used in this specific care setting”

Colin Priestley

As previously reported by Nursing Times, the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle is the first in the UK to test the SEM (Sub-epidermal moisture) Scanner with patients who have a palliative care needs.

The trial, which started in November, saw all staff on the 22-bed unit – including staff nurses, healthcare assistants and sisters – trained on how to use the hand-held battery operated device.

All patients were scanned on admission – with their consent – as part of the normal SSKIN assessment and then daily after that.

The SEM Scanner is able to detect skin damage up to five days before it is visible to the naked eye, according to its manufacturers Bruin Biometrics.

Previously, staff reported that the device had helped them put appropriate measures in place earlier to help prevent painful and distressing ulcers.

Now, they are set to officially release the first set of data from the pilot. It will be presented at a conference later today by the hospice’s lead nurse Gillian Raine.

Staff at the hospice told Nursing Times that 146 patients met the criteria of the trial and were scanned.

During the six months that staff used the SEM Scanner, seven out of the 146 patients developed a healthcare-acquired pressure ulcer, giving an incident rate of 4.8%.

Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle

Gillian Raine

Gillian Raine

In contrast, in the year before, 34 out of 377 patients developed a healthcare-acquired pressure ulcer, giving an incident rate of 9%.

As a result, they calculated that it had reduced incidence by 47%, which equated to only seven patients developing a pressure ulcer.

The data also showed that, out of the 146 patients scanned, 90% had a SEM reading at some point that indicated damage was occurring.

In the vast majority of cases, staff said simple interventions, such as increased positional changes or off-loading of heels, reversed that damage and subsequent SEM readings returned to normal.

In addition, in 36% of all patients scanned there was no visual evidence of skin damage at the time they had a SEM reading of 0.6 or more that would indicate damage occurring.

In 64% of cases, staff reported visual changes to the skin thus indicating that the SEM Scanner was more effective in early detection and therefore, possible prevention.

The device has previously been piloted in a number of hospital and community settings, as reported by Nursing Times, but never before in a hospice.

Colin Priestley, managing director of Bruin Biometrics Europe, said: “This is the first time we have seen our SEM Scanner used in this specific care setting.

“We are delighted at how Marie Curie is starting to drive a change in mindset and culture towards end of life skin care and embedding the SEM Scanner into their clinical practice,” he said.

“It is really pleasing to see how the SEM Scanner is enabling nursing staff to make anatomically targeted decisions much earlier,” he added.

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