100 Years of Bedsores: How Much Have We Learned?

ABSTRACT Just over 100 years ago, an article was published describing a plan to treat decubitus ulcers that can shed light upon medical progress and current practices. Key prevention and treatment elements included a dedicated ward, staff continuity, frequent position changes and special surfaces, cleanliness, disinfectants, and dressing changes. The necessity of resource allocation and interdisciplinary collaboration was acknowledged. This article sheds light on not only how much we have learned, but also how far we have to go.


A little over 100 years ago, a Decubitus Division was established at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and a management plan was published in an article in The Hospital Bulletin of the Department of Public Charities of the City of New York.1 This facility was established as an almshouse for the poor and today is a major municipal hospital affiliated with SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and a level I trauma center. We can learn much by examining this century-old plan for preventing and treating bedsores. To understand components of the plan, it must be remembered that antibiotics were decades in the future, and Dakin solution was still being developed on the battlefields of Europe.2 This article uses the terms “decubitus ulcer” and “bedsore,” as the terms “pressure ulcer” and “pressure injury” were not yet in the medical vocabulary.

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