What Are Stage 3 Bedsores?
Stage 3 bedsores (also known as stage 3 pressure sores, pressure injuries, or decubitus ulcers) are deep and painful wounds in the skin. They are the third of four bedsore stages. These sores develop when a stage 2 bedsore penetrates past the top layers of skin but has yet not reached muscle or bone.
Stage 3 bedsores increase the risk of life-threatening infections and stage 4 bedsores. Thankfully, stage 3 bedsores are often treatable or preventable with proper skin care. However, nursing home residents that are neglected by staff members may not get the treatment they need.
Family members can keep track of loved ones in nursing homes and help them get medical care if a bedsore has formed. Residents and families may also want to learn about their legal options — compensation may be available for stage 3 bedsores.
Causes of Stage 3 Bedsores
Nursing home residents may develop bedsores if they sit or lie in the same position for a long span of time. This puts pressure on the skin and cuts off blood flow, leading to irritation and cellular damage.
All begin as stage 1 bedsores. If left untreated, they can worsen into stage 2 and then stage 3 bedsores.
Earlier-stage bedsores break the top layers of skin. Stage 3 bedsores go even further, reaching the second layer of skin (the dermis) and the subcutaneous tissue below the skin.
Bedsores and Nursing Home Neglect
Stage 3 bedsores in nursing homes are often caused by nursing home neglect. Many older adults and their loved ones rely on nursing homes and their staff to provide care. This is especially true when a resident has health problems that prevent them from moving, such as a spinal cord injury.
Nursing home staff members are trained to check on residents who are at risk of bedsores and help with repositioning. However, not all staff members follow through on their duty to help their residents.
Staff burnout, understaffing, and carelessness can prevent at-risk residents from getting the care they need. In these cases, nursing home staff members are directly responsible if a stage 3 bedsore develops.
Symptoms of Stage 3 Bedsores
The most common symptom of a stage 3 bedsore is a deep, crater-like wound in the skin. Fat tissue, slough (dead skin), eschar (dry scabs), and epibole (curled wound edges) may also be seen. Signs of infection may appear.
Symptoms of an infected stage 3 bedsore include:
- Greenish fluid or pus oozing from the wound
- Necrosis (skin turning black and dying)
- Redness around the sore
You will not be able to see muscle tissue or bone in a stage 3 bedsore. If bone or muscle is visible, it means the resident has a stage 4 bedsore.
Diagnosing Stage 3 Bedsores
Doctors diagnose stage 3 bedsores based on the symptoms and how deep the wound is.
“Your doctor will likely look closely at your skin to decide if you have a pressure ulcer and, if so, to assign a stage to the wound. Staging helps determine what treatment is best for you.”
– Mayo Clinic
Factors that doctors look at to diagnose bedsores include:
Patients with stage 3 bedsores may not be able to sense pain due to severe skin and tissue damage. In stage 1 and stage 2, pain is very common.
Depth of the Wound
A stage 3 bedsores is a deep tissue injury. It is a tunneling wound that penetrates the top layers of skin and underlying tissue but not the bone or muscle.
Seek immediate medical attention if your loved one has or may have a stage 3 bedsore. Bedsores pose a severe health risk and need to be treated promptly.
If nursing home staff members fail to help a resident get prompt medical attention for their stage 3 bedsore, they could be to blame if the sore worsens or causes dangerous complications.
Stage 3 Bedsore Diagnostic Issues
It may not always be possible to diagnose a stage 3 bedsore. Bedsores are considered unstageable if there’s too much slough or eschar around them. Doctors will not be able to tell how deep the sore goes until these are removed.
Doctors may not even want to remove the eschar in some cases. For example, eschar that develops on bedsores near the heel signal that the sore is repairing itself.
Thankfully, doctors can often treat severe bedsores even if they cannot assign them a stage. The key is to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatment of Stage 3 Bedsores
Treatment methods include:
- Relieving pressure: Taking pressure off the affected area helps ensure it will not worsen
- Debridement: Doctors remove the eschar and slough from the sore
- Cleaning: Once the bedsore is free of eschar and slough, water or saltwater will be used to clean it
- Bandaging: Health care providers may use gauze, foam, or other options to bandage the bedsore
- Other Options: The Mayo Clinic notes that dietary changes, pain relievers like Advil, and surgery can help patients recover from bedsores
Even with treatment, stage 3 bedsores can take 1-6 months or longer to heal. If the bedsore is not treated, severe complications may arise.
Complications from stage 3 bedsores include:
- Bacterial infections
- Bone infections (osteomyelitis)
Stage 3 bedsores that are not treated properly can also worsen into stage 4 bedsores. This stage is the deepest and most likely to lead to severe outcomes, including death.
Stage 3 Bedsore Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of someone with a stage 3 bedsore depends on when they get medical care. Stage 3 bedsores themselves may not be fatal, but related health problems can be.
In 2019, a Korean War veteran and nursing home resident died after developing stage 2 and stage 3 bedsores, along with other complications such as infections and sepsis. He had been in the nursing home for less than 2 months.
The veteran’s family blamed his death on the nursing home, as staff members were supposed to help him move every few hours to avoid the sores.
Can You Prevent Stage 3 Bedsores?
Yes, stage 3 bedsores can be prevented. Nursing home residents, loved ones, and staff members can all take steps to help prevent bedsores.
|Ask for help moving and move often||Check a resident for signs of bedsores||Help residents with limited mobility issues move regularly|
|Contact a relative or an ombudsman if your needs aren’t being met||Monitor earlier stage bedsores and note if they are healing||Keep family members and relatives up-to-date on the bedsore’s healing process|
|If possible, find a new nursing home if your current one is not meeting your needs||Regularly visit a resident||Properly clean and treat early-stage bedsores|
|Maintain a healthy diet||Work with an ombudsman on behalf of a resident to resolve complaints||Reach out to doctors and nurses if an early-stage sore worsens|
Nursing home ombudsmen are often a good starting point if residents or families are concerned about the risk of bedsores. Ombudsmen serve as advocates for residents and can help resolve care concerns by working with the nursing home facility.
While residents and loved ones play a big role in preventing bedsores, nursing home staff have the most responsibility. They are the residents’ daily caregivers and must ensure the most vulnerable are not harmed.
If a resident has developed a stage 3 bedsore, then staff members may be guilty of nursing home abuse or neglect. They have worsened the resident’s health rather than maintaining it.
Legal action is often a valuable tool for residents and family members in these cases. Holding nursing homes legally accountable can prevent other residents from developing bedsores under inadequate care.
Seek Legal Compensation for a Stage 3 Bedsore
Legal compensation may be available if you or someone you love developed a stage 3 bedsore while in a nursing home. Compensation can cover the cost of medical treatments that are key to healing after a sore develops.
Seeking legal compensation may also force the nursing home and its staff to pay for causing the bedsore. You never deserved the heartbreak and devastation a bedsore can bring, and so you shouldn’t have to pay for the costs that come with it.
See if you can pursue legal compensation for a stage 3 bedsore now. Get a free case review.