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How to manage incontinence-associated dermatitis

By Nancy Chatham, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, CWOCN, CWS, and Carrie Carls, BSN, RN, CWOCN, CHRN

Moisture-related skin breakdown has been called many things-perineal dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis, heat rash, and anything else caregivers could think of to describe the damage occurring when moisture from urine or stool is left on the skin. At a 2005 consensus conference, attendees chose the term incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD).

IAD can be painful, hard to properly identify, complicated to treat, and costly. It’s part of a larger group of moisture-associated skin damage that also includes intertrigo and periwound maceration. IAD prevalence and incidence vary widely with the care setting and study design. Appropriate diagnosis, prompt treatment, and management of the irritant source are crucial to long-term treatment.

Causes

IAD stems from the effects of urine, stool, and containment devices on the skin. The skin’s pH contributes to its barrier functions and defenses against bacteria and fungus; ideal pH is 5.0 to 5.9. Urine pH ranges from 4.5 to 8.0; the higher range is alkaline and contributes to skin damage.

Skin moisture isn’t necessarily damaging. But when moisture that contains irritating substances, such as alkaline urine, contacts the skin for a prolonged period, damage can occur. Urine on the skin alters the normal skin flora and increases permeability of the stratum corneum, weakening the skin and making it more susceptible to friction and erosion. Fecal incontinence leads to active fecal enzymes on the skin, which contribute to skin damage. Fecal bacteria can penetrate the skin, increasing the risk of secondary infection. Wet skin has a lower temperature than dry skin; wet skin under a pressure load has less blood flow than dry skin.

Containment devices, otherwise known as adult diapers or briefs, are multilayer disposable garments containing a superabsorbent polymer. The polymer is designed to wick and trap moisture in the containment device. This ultimately affects the skin by trapping heat and moisture, which may cause redness and inflammation that can progress to skin erosion. This trapping can lead to increased pressure against the skin, especially if the device has absorbed liquid and remains in contact with the skin.

Categorizing IAD

IAD is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. (See Picturing IAD by clicking the PDF icon above.)

Screening for IAD

Screen the patient’s skin for persistent redness, inflammation, rash, pain, and itching at least daily. To differentiate IAD from pressure ulcers, keep in mind that:

  • IAD can occur wherever urine or stool contacts the skin. In contrast, pressure ulcers arise over bony prominences in the absence of moisture.
  • With IAD, affected skin is red or bright red. With a pressure ulcer, skin may take on a bluish purple, red, yellow, or black discoloration.
  • The skin-damage pattern in IAD usually is diffuse. With a pressure ulcer, edges are well defined.
  • The depth of IAD-related skin damage usually is partial-thickness without necrotic tissue. With a pressure ulcer, skin damage depth may vary.

Preventing IAD

The three essentials of IAD prevention are to cleanse, moisturize, and protect.

  • Cleanse the skin with a mild soap that’s balanced to skin pH and contains surfactants that lift stool and urine from the skin. Clean the skin routinely and at the time of soiling. Use warm (not hot) water, and avoid excess force and friction to avoid further skin damage.
  • Moisturize the skin daily and as needed. Moisturizers may be applied alone or
    incorporated into a cleanser. Typically, they contain an emollient such as lanolin to replace lost lipids in the stratum corneum.
  • To protect the skin, apply a moisture-barrier cream or spray if the patent has significant urinary or fecal incontinence (or both). The barrier may be zinc-based, petrolatum-based, dimethicone-based, an acrylic polymer, or another type. Consider using an algorithm developed by wound and skin care specialists that’s customized for skin care products your facility uses. (See Skin care algorithm by clicking the PDF icon above.)

If the treatment protocol fails, the patient should be referred to an appropriate skin care specialist promptly.

To help prevent urine or stool from contacting the patient’s skin, consider using a male external catheter, a female urinary pouch, a fecal pouch, or a bowel management system. Avoid containment devices. If the patient has a containment pad, make sure it’s highly absorbent and not layered, to decrease pressure under the patient.

Managing IAD

A comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to IAD is essential to the success of any skin care protocol. Identify skin care champions within your facility and educate them on IAD. Incorporating administrators, physicians, nursing staff, therapists, and care assistants makes implementation of protocols and algorithms within an institution seamless.

Administrators support the skin care program in the facility, including authorizing a budget so product purchases can be made. The certified wound clinician is the team expert regarding skin care, incontinence, prevention, and product recommendation. The physician oversees protocol development and evaluates and prescribes additional treatment when a patients fails to respond to treatment algorithms. Nursing staff identify patients at risk, incorporate the algorithm into the patient’s plan of care, and direct care
assistants
. Therapists address function, strength, and endurance issues to improve the patient’s self-care abilities in activities of daily living to manage or prevent episodes of incontinence.

In severe inflammation, topical dressings, such as alginates and foam dressings, may be used along with topical corticosteroids. In complex IAD, antifungals or antibiotics may be required if a secondary fungal or bacterial infection is suspected.

Additional diagnostic tests may be done to identify and treat secondary infections. These tests may include skin scraping, potassium hydroxide test or Gram’s stain for fungal components, or a swab culture and sensitivity for bacterial infections. If your patient has a suspected secondary fungal or bacterial infection, use appropriate treatments for the full course of recommended therapy. In severe secondary fungal infection, an oral agent may be added to topical therapy. If cost is a concern, consider using a pharmacy knowledgeable about compounding for topical combination therapies.

Referrals and education

For assessment and treatment of under-lying incontinence, refer the patient to a continence specialist if appropriate. Teach the patient strategies for managing incontinence through dietary measures, toileting programs, pelvic-floor muscle training, clothing modification, and mobility aids.

Selected references

Beguin A, Malaquin-Pavan E, Guihaire C, et al., Improving diaper design to address incontinence associated dermatitis. BMC Geriatrics. 2010;10:86. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2318/10/86. Accessed March 15, 2012.

Black JM, Gray M, Bliss DZ, et al. MASD part 2: incontinence-associated dermatitis and intertriginous dermatitis. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2011; 38(4):359-370.

Bliss DZ, Zehrer C, Savik K, et al. An economic evaluation of four skin damage prevention regimens in nursing home residents with incontinence: economics of skin damage prevention. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007;34(2):143-152.

Denat Y, Khorshid L. The effect of 2 different care products on incontinence-associated dermatitis in patients with fecal incontinence. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2011;38(2):171-176.

Doughty DB. Urinary and Fecal Incontinence: Current Management Concepts. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier; 2006.

Gray, M. Optimal management of incontinence-associated dermatitis in the elderly. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(3):201-210.

Gray M, Beeckman D, Bliss DZ, et al. Incontinence-associated dermatitis: a comprehensive review and update. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2012;39(1):61-74

Gray M, Bliss DZ, Doughty DB, et al. Incontinence-associated dermatitis: a consensus. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007;34(1):45-54.

Gray M, Bohacek L, Weir D, et al. Moisture vs pressure: making sense out of perineal wounds. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007;34(2):134-42.

Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Health care protocol: Pressure ulcer prevention and treatment. Bloomington, MN: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. January 2012. http://www.icsi.org/pressure_ulcer_treatment_protocol__review_and_comment_/pressure_ulcer_treatment__protocol__.html. Accessed March 15, 2012.

Junkin J, Lerner-Selekof JL. Prevalence of incontinence and associated skin injury in the acute care inpatient. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007;34(3):260-269.

Landefeld CS, Bowers BJ, Feld AD, et al. National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference statement: prevention of fecal and urinary incontinence in adults. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(6):449-458.

Langemo D, Hanson D, Hunter S, et al. Incontinence and incontinence-associated dermatitis. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2011;24(3):126-142.

Scheinfeld NS. Cutaneous candidiasis workup. 2011 update. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1090632-workup. Accessed March 15, 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau. The older population 2010. November 2011. www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-09.pdf. Accessed March 15, 2012.

Nancy Chatham is an advanced practice nurse at Passavant Physician Associates in Jacksonville, Illinois. Carrie Carls is the nursing director of advanced wound healing and hyperbaric medicine at Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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Wet to Dry

By: Nancy Morgan, RN, BSN, MBA, WOCN, WCC, CWCMS, DWC

In the modern world of wound care, there are many treatment options. Surprisingly though, we are still seeing orders for those dreaded wet-to-dry dressings. Using a wet-to-dry dressing involves placing moist saline gauze onto the wound bed, then allowing it to dry and adhere to the tissue in the wound bed. Once the gauze is dry, the clinician removes the gauze, with force often required. This has to be repeated every 4 to 6 hours. Wet-to-dry dressings are a nonselective debridement method that harms good tissue as well as removes necrotic tissue. It keeps the wound bed at a cool temperature and it at risk for bacterial invasion, as bacteria can penetrate up to 64 layers of gauze! It’s one of the most painful procedures for our patients, and this was one treatment that as a nurse I never wanted to do. In fact, I have heard of nurses who would remoisten the gauze before removal to make the treatment more bearable for patients.

Are you seeing a lot of these dressing still used in current practice? What types of settings are they still being used in consistently? How are you dealing with the prescribing clinicians who continue to order this treatment even though it’s considered a substandard practice for wound care?

Click here to return to Wound Care Swagger

DISCLAIMER: All clinical recommendations are intended to assist with determining the appropriate wound therapy for the patient. Responsibility for final decisions and actions related to care of specific patients shall remain the obligation of the institution, its staff, and the patients’ attending physicians. Nothing in this information shall be deemed to constitute the providing of medical care or the diagnosis of any medical condition. Individuals should contact their healthcare providers for medical-related information.

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I call shotgun!

By: Donna Sardina, RN, MHA, WCC, CWCMS, DWC

Ahhh—the front seat, shotgun, the good spot, the privilege-to-sit-in and most coveted of all positions when riding in a car. Those are great words if you’re the caller to stake your claim for the front seat, but not so great if you’re the one stuck in the back seat.

In the world of health care, wound and skin care unfortunately never gets to ride shotgun. It seems like we always get the back seat unless there’s a problem. Think back to your college days. Do you remember Wound and Skin Care 101 and the torture of memorizing all 2,000 wound care products on the market, the endless case studies and wound differentiation quizzes? No? Well neither do I. If your schooling was like mine, you learned about sterile dressing changes, wet-to-dry dressings, Montgomery straps, and if you were lucky, how to apply an ostomy bag.

Granted, I went to nursing school in the 1970s. But things haven’t changed much. Wound care still gets the back seat when it comes to educational priorities. A survey by Ayello, Baranoski, and Salati of 692 registered nurses found that 70% considered their basic wound care education to be insufficient and fewer than 50% of new nurses believed they could consistently identify pressure ulcer stages. Another survey of nursing textbooks revealed students could be exposed to as few as 45 lines of text on pressure ulcers.

It’s not just lack of nursing education, but also poor physician education. As reported in a poster by Garcia and colleagues, only 8 of 50 medical residents scored more than 50% on a 20-question test measuring pressure ulcer knowledge, with a high score of 65% (range, 13.04% to 76.09% correct).

It’s time for a change, and I’m excited to be a part of a new tool to help move wound and skin care education to the front seat: Wound Care Advisor, the official journal of the National Alliance of Wound Care (NAWC). With its “Don’t just tell me, but show me” approach, the journal will feature plenty of photographs, step-by-step instructions, and video how-to’s. If you’re like me and prone to attention deficit, you’re in luck. We’ll keep things practical and to the point, with a “learn it today and do it tomorrow” mantra.

Another cutting-edge feature of the journal is the electronic-only format; this isn’t a print journal. The no-paper format will help us declutter our lives and minimize our ecological footprint. Not to worry, though: With our print-on-demand feature, you can always print out individual articles or even the entire journal if you want.

In keeping with NAWC principles, Wound Care Advisor is geared toward all care settings and a multidisciplinary audience. This isn’t just the NAWC journal; it’s your journal. We need you to help us move wound care from the back seat to the front seat of the car by sharing your knowledge and passion for wound and skin care. Call or e-mail us your case studies, best practices, tools, forms, wound photos, or even feedback about the journal.

I truly believe that together, you, I, NAWC, and Wound Care Advisor can move wound and skin care education to the front seat. I look forward to working with you on the ride to the coveted shotgun seat.

Donna Sardina, MHA, RN, WCC, CWCMS
Editor-in-Chief
Wound Care Advisor
Cofounder, Wound Care Education Institute
Plainfield, Illinois

Selected references
Ayello EA, Baranoski S. Examining the problem of pressure ulcers. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005; 18:192-194.
Ayello EA, Baranoski S, Salati DS. A survey of nurses’ wound care knowledge. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005;18(5 Pt 1):268-275.
Ayello EA, Meaney G. Replicating a survey of pressure ulcer content in nursing textbooks. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2003;30(5): 266-271.
Garcia AD, Perkins C, Click C, Bergstrom N, Taffet G. Pressure ulcers education in primary care residencies. Poster session presented at 19th Annual Clinical Symposium on Advances in Skin & Wound Care. September 30-October 3, 2004; Phoenix, Arizona.

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Wound Healing Improves With New Bioactive Peptide Combo

bioactive peptide

By combining bioactive peptides, researchers have successfully stimulated wound healing in an in vitro and in vivo study. The studies, published in PLoS ONE, show that the combination of two peptides stimulates growth of blood vessels and promotes tissue re-growth of tissue. Further research into these peptides could potentially lead to new therapies for chronic and acute wounds.

The researchers evaluated a newly-created peptide, UN3, in pre-clinical models with the goal of simulating impaired wound healing as in patients suffering from peripheral vascular diseases or uncontrolled diabetes. They discovered that the peptide increased the development of blood vessel walls by 50%, with an 250% increase in blood vessel growth, and a 300% increase in cell migration in response to the injury. (more…)

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