Damien Jolley, Associate Professor in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the School of Health Sciences from Deakin University, and colleagues examined the effectiveness of the Sheepskin, which has a denser, higher wool pile and can withstand multiple washes at 80 degrees C.
Until now there has been limited evidence that the use of sheepskins helps prevent pressure ulcers.
This open-label randomised controlled clinical trial involved 441 patients in a large teaching hospital in Melbourne, whose stay was expected to exceed two days, and who had a low to moderate risk of developing pressure ulcers.
About half the patients received a sheepskin mattress overlay, and the other patients received usual treatment delivered by ward staff.
Patients were monitored daily during their hospital stay.
Fifty-eight patients developed ulcers during the study (21 had sheepskins).
The open-label, unblinded trial was open to observer bias because stage 1 pressure ulcers are difficult to diagnose. But results also revealed a reduction of 46 percent in stage 2 ulcers in patients who used the Sheepskin.
"The results of this study extend the previous findings in an elderly orthopaedic population to the general adult hospital population," Associate Professor Jolley said.
"Although the Sheepskin may initially add to the cost of patient care, it has the potential to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers in general hospital patients," Associate Professor Jolley said.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.
CONTACT For comment on the study design and results please contact:
Associate Prof Damien JOLLEY 03 9251 7192 / 0418 374 705
For comment on the Sheepskin please contact:
Dr Ken MONTGOMERY 03 9545 2330 / 0418 235 103
Judith TOKLEY, AMA 02 6260 5471 / 0408 824 306