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What is an Alternating Pressure Mattress?



What are Alternating Pressure Mattresses?

Alternating Pressure Mattresses are designed to be used by bed ridden patients who have lost the ability to move in bed, change their resting position or with lowered mental awareness level. Alternating Pressure Mattresses consist of individual air tubes that automatically inflate and deflate on a set schedule which changes the pressures on a given point on the body, enhancing tissue perfusion by increasing blood flow through capillaries as pressure is applied and released. Alternating Pressure Mattresses greatly lower the risk of pressure sores or bed sores.

Why Are Alternating Pressure Mattresses Used?

Alternating Pressure Mattresses can prevent or help heal decubitus ulcers, commonly called 'bedsores' or 'pressure sores' and provide comfort to patients with burns, Multiple Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, Fibromyalgia, etc.

Sensitive body parts of the bedridden patient can be protected by:

  • Sheepskin pads
  • Special cushions placed on top of a mattress
  • A water-filled mattress
  • A variable-pressure mattress with manual inflation control

Mattress overlays can be used to help burn victims and for people who have difficult turning at night.

Difference between Alternating Pressure Mattress and Low-Air-Loss Mattress

Although both Alternating Pressure and Low-Air-Loss mattresses are powered and both technologies are used in the management of skin and wounds, Alternating Pressure and Low-Air-Loss operate on two totally different principles.

Alternating Pressure Mattresses consist of parallel air tubes that can be inflated and deflated on a set schedule, and in an A-B-A-B pattern. At any given moment, if the pressure in A air tubes is high, then the pressure in B air tubes is low and after a preset time interval, this pressure level is slowly reversed. This changes the pressure applied at a given point on the body, enhancing tissue perfusion by increasing blood circulation through capillaries as pressure is applied and released.

Low-air-loss mattresses consist of large bladders punctured by tiny pin-holes through which air diffuses up into the space between the air bladders or cylinders and the cover. Low-air-loss mattresses float the patient on air-filled cells while circulating air across the skin to reduce moisture and help maintain a constant skin interface pressure. The heat and moisture vapors from the patient’s skin diffuse down through the cover, and are pushed away from the patient and out of the mattress/cover system. Low-air-loss can reduce the negative effects of heat and moisture buildup on the skin.

What Causes Bed Sores or Ulcers?

Bed sores are most often developed when the pressure applied on the skin when lying on the bed pinches tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin. When skin is deprived of oxygen and nutrients for a few hours, tissue in that area can die and bedsores can form.

Minor pressure ulcers can be caused due to slight rubbing or friction against the skin. Pressure Ulcers can also develop when blood vessels are stretches or bent by slipping into a different position in a bed or chair. Moisture increases the risk of skin infection, and people who are unable to move and shift position in bed have greater risk of developing bedsores or ulcers. Other risk factors include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Anemia (lack of red blood cells)
  • Muscle weakness from lack of use
  • Infection



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