Treating Decubitus Ulcers: A Guide for Embalmers

Treating Decubitus Ulcers: A Guide for Embalmers

Every embalmer knows that decubitus ulcers can be common these days.

Decubitus ulcers, also known as pressure sores, are areas of damaged skin and underlying tissues that develop when there has been prolonged pressure on the skin. These sores can be common in individuals who may not be able to reposition themselves frequently enough, such as those who are bedridden or restricted to a wheelchair.

Pressure, friction, and moisture are the main causes of decubitus ulcers. If left untreated, these sores can progress and become infected and necrotic. These ulcers can be observed by the embalmer as swelling and necrotic tissue around the affected area. The area may also have unpleasant odors associated with them.

If the ulcer is in an advanced stage, arterial embalming may be limited to the area as the vasculature structure, including capillaries, may be compromised.

Here is how an embalmer friend of mine approaches these conditions. First, begin the arterial embalming procedure as you normally would. A slightly stronger solution might be necessary. I create this by adding Frigid Rigid (1-RIGID) to the solution I am making. Rigid, a 35-index fluid, is designed to aggressively treat problem areas. Make sure to observe the affected area. You may notice that blood and arterial fluid leak from the area. This is a good sign. This indicates that blood is being displaced by your arterial solution. It is recommended that you continue to inject the body as normal. After arterial injection, I treat the area with Vis-O-Guard Gel (1-VISOGUARD) overnight. I prefer this gel over others because it is viscous and “sticks” to the affected area. This viscosity ensures exposure of the preservative chemicals to the tissue. Vis-O-Guard gel also contains the active ingredient found in Frigid’s STOP that helps to combat tissue gas and maggot infestation; both of which commonly be found on decubitus ulcers.

After about eight hours, I wash the area and treat it further with Paulex Powder (1-PAULPOWD1). This is a great product for further disinfection, sanitation and odor reduction. I make sure to use plastic garments over the affected area. For example, if the ulcer is found in the sacrum area, I would use a Plastic Coveralls (2-COVEPLAS-S). This helps ensure that the powder stays in place and continues to work on the affected area.

Embalming can be challenging, especially when dealing with decubitus ulcers. However, with careful observation and the use of specialized products, embalmers can effectively treat the affected area and preserve the body. It’s important to remember that each situation is unique and may require a different approach.

Dr. Damon de la Cruz

Blog contributed by:

Dr. Damon de la Cruz

Dr. de la Cruz is the Director of Education at Frigid Fluid. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer and has taught funeral service education for over a decade. His doctorate is in molecular pathology. Damon has developed several funeral service smartphone applications and is the author of Turning Art Into Science: Chemistry for Funeral Service.

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