Nonpharmacologic Interventions to Prevent Pressure Ulcers in Older Patients: An Overview of Systematic Reviews (The Software ENgine for the Assessment and optimization of drug and non-drug Therapy in Older peRsons [SENATOR] Definition of Optimal Evidence-Based Non-drug Therapies in Older People [ONTOP] Series)

Published:February 05, 2016DOI:



      Pressure ulcers (PUs) are frequent in older patients, and the healing process is usually challenging, therefore, prevention should be the first strategic line in PU management. Nonpharmacologic interventions may play a role in the prevention of PUs in older people, but most systematic reviews (SRs) have not addressed this specific population using convincing outcome measures.


      To summarize and critically appraise the evidence from SRs of the primary studies on nonpharmacologic interventions to prevent PUs in older patients.


      SR and meta-analysis of comparative studies.

      Data sources

      PubMed, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and CINHAL (from inception to October 2013) were searched. A new search for updates in the Cochrane Database was launched in July 2014.

      Eligibility criteria for selecting studies

      SRs that included at least 1 comparative study evaluating any nonpharmacologic intervention to prevent PUs in older patients, in any healthcare setting, were selected. Any primary study with experimental design was then identified and included.

      Data extraction

      From each primary study, quality assessment was undertaken as specified by the Cochrane Collaboration and the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation working group. Interventions were identified and compared among different studies to explore the possibility of performing a meta-analysis, using the incidence of new pressure ulcers as the main outcome measure.


      One hundred ten SRs with 65 primary studies satisfied the inclusion criteria. The most frequent interventions explored in these trials were support surfaces (41 studies), repositioning (8), and nutrition interventions (5). High quality of evidence was not found for any intervention, mainly because of a high risk of bias and imprecision. There is moderate quality evidence to support the use of alternating pressure support mattresses over usual hospital mattresses in medical and surgical inpatients, low quality evidence to support constant low pressure devices and Australian medical sheepskin over usual mattresses, and very low quality evidence to support nutrition interventions in hospital settings. No recommendations on hydration, repositioning, standardized risk assessment, or multicomponent interventions can be done.


      In older patients at high risk to suffer PUs, high-technology and low- technology support surfaces can significantly reduce the incidence of PUs. Nutrition intervention may also have a role in preventing PUs in hospital settings. More evidence is needed to support other recommendations, which is specially lacking for repositioning.


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