Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Pressure ulcer risk assessment in the ICU. is it time for a more objective measure.pdf (558.65 kB)

Pressure ulcer risk assessment in the ICU. is it time for a more objective measure?

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-05-02, 08:05 authored by Natalie McEvoyNatalie McEvoy, Declan PattonDeclan Patton, Gerard CurleyGerard Curley, Zena MooreZena Moore

Background: The Braden scale, one of the most widely used risk assessment tools is often criticized when used in the Intensive Care Unit. Most patients in the Intensive Care Unit are at risk of pressure ulcer development meaning that the Braden score will usually indicate high risk for these patients. This study set out to determine the correlation between Sub-Epidermal Moisture measurements and Braden scores among Intensive Care Unit patients.

Methods: This study employed an observational research design. Braden score was assessed on all study days (1-5), in addition to visual skin assessment and Sub-Epidermal Moisture measurements at the sacrum and heels. Sub-Epidermal Moisture measurements were categorised as low (<0.5), borderline abnormal (≥0.5), and high (≥0.8). Correlation was assessed between Sub-Epidermal Moisture levels and Braden scores.

Results: A total of 53 participants were recruited. The median (interquartile range) baseline Braden score was 9 (9-10) and 81 % (n = 43) of participants were at very high/high risk of pressure ulcer development. Braden scores remained relatively constant over time with little fluctuation in scores. 19 % (n = 10) of patients had normal (<0.5) Sub-Epidermal Moisture delta measurements on enrolment, and all developed abnormal measurements by day 2. There were no significant correlations between Braden scores and Sub-Epidermal Moisture measurements.

Conclusion: Although this was not its original intention, a missing link with the Braden scale is that it does not provide information on how patients are responding to the adverse effects of pressure and shear forces. Furthermore, in patients who are critically unwell, most patients are classified as being "at risk" of pressure ulcer development. Therefore, an objective measure of how patients are responding to pressure and shear forces at different anatomical areas is needed.

Implications to clinical practice: Sub-Epidermal Moisture measurements can offer more information, not only on identifying those who are at risk, but also how those patients are tolerating this risk at different anatomical sites.


Irish Research Council as part of an Enterprise Partnership Scheme with Bruin Biometrics. Funding award ID: EPSPG/2019/475



The original article is available at

Published Citation

McEvoy NL, Patton D, Curley GF, Moore Z. Pressure ulcer risk assessment in the ICU. Is it time for a more objective measure? Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2024;83:103681.

Publication Date

21 March 2024

PubMed ID



  • Anaesthetics and Critical Care
  • Beaumont Hospital
  • School of Nursing and Midwifery
  • Skin Wounds and Trauma (SWaT) Research Centre




  • Published Version (Version of Record)