What Is A Pressure Care Mattress And How Does It Work?

What Is A Pressure Care Mattress And How Does It Work?

Pressure care is a fast-growing field in health-care used to prevent secondary issues and complications brought on from prolonged hospital stays with increased bed use and decreased mobility. Pressure mattresses are used in hospitals, facilities, communities and homecare environments to provide comfort and support and to help prevent and relieve pressure sores.


Pressure sores are injuries to the skin and possibly underlying tissue that primarily develop due to prolonged pressure on an area of skin. These most commonly occur at the elbows, base of spine, hips and heels.

The risk of developing pressure sores is dependent on the following factors:

  1. Skin integrity: to determine the integrity of the skin, a health professional is needed to assess how a person’s skin deals with high amounts of pressure
  2. Mobility/self-mobilization: a reduced ability to move can increase the risk of developing pressure sores due to decreased body adjusting and moving about in bed
  3. Required time needed in bed: increased time in bed will increase the risk of developing pressure sores
  4. Other conditions: conditions such as those that affect the blood can play a role in increasing the risk of developing pressure sore

The severity of pressure sores falls into different categories which progress from skin redness and irritation to full thickness tissue loss exposing bone and tendons. It is important to note whether you want to help prevent pressure sores or if a person already has sores and needs to relieve them. Once the risk and/or presence of pressure sores has been determined the appropriate pressure mattress/overlay can be chosen and put in place.


A pressure mattress is used to either prevent or help treat the presence of pressure sores by distributing pressure around the body and providing relieving air pockets for the pressure sores to sit.

Pressure mattresses can be either overlays or full replacements. Overlays have a shallow depth and are positioned on top of an existing mattress. Full replacements simply replace the need for another mattress by having deeper air cells and incorporating both mattress and pressure care into one.

There are three main types of pressure mattresses, these are static/foam mattresses, dynamic/airflow/alternating mattresses and hybrid mattresses.

1. Static/foam mattresses

These static mattresses such as the Convoluted Foam Mattress Overlay and SAF Overlay are best suited for people with a low risk of developing pressure sores and for those who don’t currently have pressure sores. This type of mattress does not help treat pressure sores but rather helps to prevent them. They use foam layers, shaped surfaces and air pockets to help distribute pressure around the body and reduce the pressure placed on one area of skin and provide high levels of comfort.

2. Dynamic/airflow/alternating mattresses

These dynamic mattresses such as the YorkKent and Eton relieve and redistribute pressure by inflating and deflating air cells that make up the mattress. The airflow is controlled by a pump that usually attaches to the end of the bed. Inflated cells provide high levels of support while the deflated cells provide relief for present pressure sores. Alternating pumps ensure constant movement which is useful in treating pressure sores and helping people with limited mobility, it also helps to reduce manual repositioning by a carer. These mattresses are best suited for people with moderate to high risk of pressure sores.

3. Hybrid mattresses

Hybrid mattresses combine static and dynamic mattress elements to create a mattress best suited for those at high risk of developing pressure sores. These mattresses, such as the Otley Hybrid Pressure Mattress, combine alternating air cells with a soft foam layer providing the highest level of support and comfort.

Pressure care mattresses are very important in reducing pressure sores as well as further risks and complications associated with pressure sores such as pain and infections. It is important to use the right mattress for the right person matching the correct level of risk between the two. Please note, it is important to consult a health care professional before use. For further information take a look at the Safety and Mobility website or contact our friendly staff.