Low airloss hydrotherapy versus standard care for incontinent hospitalized patients

Richard G. Bennett, Patricia J. Baran, La Veda DeVone, Hector Bacetti, Blaine Kristo, Matthew Tayback, William B. Greenough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether low airloss hydrotherapy reduces the incidence of new skin lesions associated with incontinence in hospitalized patients and results in more rapid healing of existing pressure sores compared with standard care. To assess subjectively patient and nursing satisfaction related to using low airloss hydrotherapy beds. DESIGN: Randomized, prospective, unblinded study. SETTING: Acute and chronic hospital wards. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 116 newly admitted, incontinent, hospitalized patients with and without existing pressure sores. INTERVENTION: Low airloss hydrotherapy compared with treatment on hospital beds and mattresses ordered by the patient's attending physician. MEASUREMENTS: Incidence rates of new skin lesion development, e.g., pressure sores, candidiasis, and chemical irritation; improvement in existing pressure sore size, volume, and status; subjective assessment of patient and nursing satisfaction. RESULTS: Possible hypothermia was identified in two patients during the first week of the study, and patient and nursing dissatisfaction with low airloss hydrotherapy remained high throughout the first months of the study. Therefore, two major modifications in the initial protocol were made: (1) increased patient temperature monitoring for hypothermia was initiated in Week 2 of the study and (2) increased staff resources for in-service training on bed use began in Week 18 of the study. After the latter change, 58 subjects were randomized to low airloss hydrotherapy and 58 to standard care. Subjects were old (median age ≤ 80 years), and almost all were bedbound or nonambulatory. The median (range) length of follow-up for subjects in the treatment group was significantly shorter than for those in the control group (4 (1-60) days versus 6 (1-62) days, respectively, P = .017) because there were more dropouts from the treatment group (24 (36%) of 58 versus 2 (3%) of 58, P = .0001). The major reasons dropout occurred were patient or family dissatisfaction (12 (21%)), new or worsened skin lesions thought to be related to bed use (4 (7%)), and hypothermia < 97°F (4 (7%)). The total cumulative incidence of new truncal skin lesions within 9 days of enrollment was greater in the treatment than in the control group (48% versus 14%, respectively, P < 0.01). Too few patients with existing pressure sores were treated for too short a period of time to assess the effect of low airloss hydrotherapy on pressure sore healing. Because only 10 patients treated on low airloss hydrotherapy beds were able to complete satisfaction surveys meaningfully, interpretation of these data is difficult. Only nine (21%) of 44 nurses subjectively reported overall satisfaction using the low airloss hydrotherapy bed. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows the value of a rigorously designed clinically based evaluation of a new product developed for older patients. The results of the study led to re-engineering of the prototype low airloss hydrotherapy bed as well as a change in marketing strategy. Studies of products targeted to the prevention and treatment of pressure sores in older patients should be undertaken before generalized marketing begins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-576
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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