Prevention of pressure ulcers with a static air support surface: A systematic review

Brecht Serraes*, Martin van Leen, Jos Schols, Ann Van Hecke, Sofie Verhaeghe, Dimitri Beeckman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


The aims of this study were to identify, assess, and summarise available evidence about the effectiveness of static air mattress overlays to prevent pressure ulcers. The primary outcome was the incidence of pressure ulcers. Secondary outcomes included costs and patient comfort. This study was a systematic review. Six electronic databases were consulted: Cochrane Library, EMBASE, PubMed (Medline), CINAHL (EBSCOhost interface), Science direct, and Web of Science. In addition, a hand search through reviews, conference proceedings, and the reference lists of the included studies was performed to identify additional studies. Potential studies were reviewed and assessed by 2 independent authors based on the title and abstract. Decisions regarding inclusion or exclusion of the studies were based on a consensus between the authors. Studies were included if the following criteria were met: reporting an original study; the outcome was the incidence of pressure ulcer categories I to IV when using a static air mattress overlay and/or in comparison with other pressure-redistribution device(s); and studies published in English, French, and Dutch. No limitation was set on study setting, design, and date of publication. The methodological quality assessment was evaluated using the Critical Appraisal Skills Program Tool. Results were reported in a descriptive way to reflect the exploratory nature of the review. The searches included 13 studies: randomised controlled trials (n = 11) and cohort studies (n = 2). The mean pressure ulcer incidence figures found in the different settings were, respectively, 7.8% pressure ulcers of categories II to IV in nursing homes, 9.06% pressure ulcers of categories I to IV in intensive care settings, and 12% pressure ulcers of categories I to IV in orthopaedic wards. Seven comparative studies reported a lower incidence in the groups of patients on a static air mattress overlay. Three studies reported a statistical (P < .1) lower incidence compared with a standard hospital mattress (10 cm thick, density 35 kg/m(3)), a foam mattress (15 cm thick), and a viscoelastic foam mattress (15 cm thick). No significant difference in incidence, purchase costs, and patient comfort was found compared with dynamic air mattresses. This review focused on the effectiveness of static air mattress overlays to prevent pressure ulcers. There are indications that these mattress overlays are more effective in preventing pressure ulcers compared with the use of a standard mattress or a pressure-reducing foam mattress in nursing homes and intensive care settings. However, interpretation of the evidence should be performed with caution due to the wide variety of methodological and/or reporting quality levels of the included studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-343
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Wound Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • incidence
  • low-technology support surfaces
  • pressure ulcers
  • prevention
  • static air support surfaces


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