Pressure ulcers are serious problems within hospital and aged care settings and are associated with adverse health outcomes and high treatment costs. Because of a high incidence of pressure ulcers in the health system, attention is now being directed to not just preventing, but also more effectively treating them. Nutrition plays a fundamental part in wound healing, with malnutrition, dehydration and recent weight loss identified as independent risk factors for the development of pressure ulcers. While the optimal nutrient intake to promote wound healing is unknown, increased needs for energy, protein, zinc and vitamins A, C and E have been documented. There is reasonable evidence to show that nutritional support, mostly by high-protein oral nutritional supplements, is effective in significantly reducing the incidence of pressure ulcers in at-risk patients by 25%. Intervention studies using high-protein or specialised disease-specific nutritional supplements support a trend to increased healing of established pressure ulcers. Such specialised supplements are typically based on defined amounts of arginine, vitamin C and zinc. Mechanisms by which nutritional support can aid in pressure ulcer prevention and healing are likely related to addressing macro- and/or micro-nutrient deficiencies arising from either poor oral intake or increased nutrient requirements related to the wound healing process. With much more research still to be done in this area, nutrition support appears an efficacious and costeffective adjunct to current medical and nursing approaches in the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.
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