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Changing the sheets: Silky linens reduce pressure ulcers at North Carolina health system


North Carolina’s Cone Health in Greensboro welcomed the opportunity to try a local company’s therapeutic linens and found the silky, antimicrobial sheets, pillowcases, gowns and underpads reduced pressure ulcer development and aided in healing at an impressive rate.

Precision Fabrics Group Inc., also of Greensboro, approached Cone Health about clinically testing its DermaTherapy linens in an acute care setting. The linens already had received Food and Drug Administration approval as a Class 1 medical device for the treatment of mild atopic dermatitis. The fabric features thin channels to wick away moisture and a smooth weave with an antimicrobial treatment embedded in the fibers that helps eliminate odors and maintain freshness. The material improves the patient’s microclimate.

Annette Smith, RN

“Because it is smooth, it helps the patient move across the surface without [friction],” said Lora B. McPhail, RN, BSN, nurse consultant for healthcare products at Precision Fabrics.

Annette Smith, RN, MSN, vice president of nursing and patient services at Cone’s Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro, N.C, said she initially was skeptical about the using the linens, but the skepticism quickly faded. “We had remarkable outcomes,” she said.

Pressure ulcer rates declined 81.5% during a six-month trial in 2010-11 at the Wesley Long hospital. Not only did fewer patients develop decubiti, but those coming in with such sores healed faster, length of stay decreased and bacteria on the sheets decreased.

“We believe the decrease in bacteria helps us with [preventing]infections and length of stay,” Smith said. “The sheet is a drier, smoother surface, which decreases shear.”

Patients have more freedom of movement and are easier for staff to move. However, nurses have found patients are sometimes more difficult to keep positioned because they can move so easily on their own.

The linens cost about two to three times more than traditional cotton or cotton-blend sets, McPhail said, but the product lasts longer and weighs less, so hospitals save on laundering. Cone has not replaced as many linens because of stains or tears, but it has had to purchase replacements when patients took the linens home. Smith also pointed out that the hospital recoups the costs with fewer wounds and shorter lengths of stay.

Cone Health has now deployed therapeutic linens systemwide. “It’s a bold move for the health system,” Smith said. “We believe in this product. The antimicrobial properties assist in wound healing and protect our patients in a way a cotton sheet cannot. It’s also a great match for us because part of our hospital’s legacy is in textiles,” Smith said.

The hospital had received its original funding from a textile family’s trust.


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Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email

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