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Rotational Mattresses Who Needs Them and Why

Carrie Tabor

First let’s define what a lateral rotational mattress is: lateral rotational mattresses utilize independent air cells in the mattress to “fill” and “deflate” at prescribed intervals, regulated by a pump, to rotate the patient from side to side to provide proper redistribution of the patients weight. Lateral rotational mattresses are generally used for patients to reduce the risk of pulmonary complications, improve circulation, and provide pressure relief with the possibility of reducing the risk of pressure sores all without disturbing the patient. Most lateral rotational mattresses have at least four air chambers, a high density foam base, head bolster and abduction wedge for additional patient safety.

While there are many benefits to the patient when using a lateral rotational mattress there is also a big advantage to the caregiver. Less back strain is one obvious advantage to the caregiver. As the population age’s caregiver injury, in facilities and in private homes is on the rise. Also the caregiver can enjoy more uninterrupted sleep thus increasing the caregiver’s awareness and reducing possible injury. The lateral rotational mattress can be set to turn the patient at prescribed intervals thus eliminating the need for the caregiver to get up in the middle of the night to turn the patient.

So who would benefit from a lateral rotational mattress? Anyone who has circulation problems or is at risk for pressure ulcers/ bed sores. People who are confined to a bed or wheelchair for prolonged periods of time, those with loss of bowel or bladder control, poor nutrition, or lowered mental awareness are all candidates for developing pressure ulcers.

What are pressure ulcers or bed sores? Bed sores or pressure ulcers are formed when three factors come together. Those three  factors are: pressure, heat, moisture. Pressure is caused by lack of movement and constant pressure on the same location on the body. Heat is caused by this constant pressure and lack of air circulation. Moisture is caused by lack of bowel or bladder control. Pressure ulcers left unaddressed can be painful and life threatening. Pressures ulcers can lead to longer hospital stays and a slower recovery time from other health issues. When an immobile patient is left in one position for extended periods of time they are more likely to develop infection to vital organs, pulmonary and respiratory infections. Turning and shifting the patient at regular intervals can reduce the risk of developing more serious problems.
Here are some of the people who might benefit from a lateral turning mattress:
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Immobility due to age and or mental awareness
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Traumatic Brain injuries
  • Stroke patients
  • Comatose patients
  • ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease)
  • Guillain Barre Syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Degenerative disk disease
While lateral turning mattresses are not inexpensive, the possible benefits of such a mattress to not only the patient but also the caregiver can far outweigh the cost. There are many different types of lateral turning mattresses some with heal support, some with egress restraint, some with or without pumps. Knowing your patient and their ongoing needs is the most successful way to choose the correct mattress.


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