Stage 3 Bedsores - Learn Their Causes and Symptoms

Stage 3 Bedsores

Learn About Stage 3 Bedsores

Quick Answer

Stage 3 bedsores are the second-to-last stage of pressure sore progression. At this stage, the sore has gone through all layers of skin into the fat tissue, exposing the patient to infections and invasive surgery. In most cases, nursing homes can prevent stage 3 bedsores through proper care of patients with mobility issues or by properly treating early-stage bedsores.

What Are Stage 3 Bedsores?

Bedsores — skin and tissue damage caused by prolonged pressure to one spot — are assigned stages from 1 to 4 in order of severity. Stage 3 bedsores are serious pressure sores in which the wound has worn through all skin layers, exposing the fat.

Pressure ulcers at any bedsore stage can usually be prevented through proper care and treatment of earlier-stage bedsores. Nursing home residents who receive proper care should almost never develop such severe sores. Advanced-stage bedsores may be an unfortunate sign of understaffing and nursing home neglect.

Diagnosing a Stage 3 Bedsore

A medical professional relies on a bedsore’s appearance to diagnose its stage.

Stage 3 bedsores have the following characteristics:

  • Black or rotten outer edges
  • Crater-like indentation
  • Dead, yellowish tissue
  • No visible tendon, ligament, muscle, or bone
  • Visible fat tissues

Two complications may delay a stage 3 bedsore diagnosis:

  • Deep tissue injuries: A deep tissue injury occurs when there is no open wound, but the tissues beneath a patient’s skin are damaged.
  • Unstageable injuries: If a doctor cannot see the base of the sore, they cannot make a diagnosis. In this case, they will diagnose the ulcer as unstageable.

Stage 3 pressure ulcers pose a serious health risk, but their causes are largely preventable.

Causes of Stage 3 Bedsores

Stage 3 bedsores are caused when stage 2 bedsores fail to heal, and the sore progresses past all layers of a patient’s skin.

While all nursing home residents with limited mobility may be vulnerable to advanced-stage bedsores, some residents have an especially high risk.

Residents are at higher risk of chronic or more severe bedsores if they have:

  • A cast on
  • Circulation problems
  • Diabetes
  • Poor nutrition

Even in these high-risk patients, stage 3 bedsores are often the result of nursing home neglect caused by understaffing. Staff should have enough time to treat less severe sores and move immobile patients often enough to avoid causing pressure sores.

Symptoms of Stage 3 Bedsores

Stage 3 bedsore symptoms are largely caused by bacterial infections and dead tissue.

Symptoms of stage 3 bedsores include:

  • A crater-like indentation in the skin
  • Bad odor
  • Black tissue in or around the sore
  • Drainage and/or pus
  • Heat
  • Red edges

If left untreated, stage 3 bedsores may progress to stage 4 bedsores, putting the nursing home resident at risk for potentially deadly infections.

Treating Stage 3 Bedsores

Stage 3 bedsores should be treated as soon as possible before they progress to their final stage. Treating these injuries can be difficult because such deep sores often require surgery and heal slowly.

Treatment of stage 3 bedsores may include:

  • Antibiotics to fight infection
  • A special bed or mattress to help with recovery
  • Debridement — the surgical removal of dead tissue

With quality care, stage 3 pressure ulcers take 1-3 months to heal.

Preventing Stage 3 Bedsores

Stage 3 bedsores can be prevented by successfully treating early-stage pressure ulcers or by stopping sores from forming in the first place.

Nursing home staff can help prevent stage 3 bedsores by:

  • Keeping residents mobile
  • Making sure residents are well-fed and hydrated
  • Treating early-stage bedsores as soon as possible
  • Carefully monitoring earlier stage bedsores to ensure they are healing

With proper care, late-stage bedsores are usually preventable.

Family members who discover bedsores on their elderly loved one should immediately speak to facility staff or a local long-term care ombudsman. If they are deeply concerned about the safety or physical state of their family member, they should call the police.

Stage 3 Bedsores From Nursing Home Neglect

Not all bedsores are caused by nursing home neglect — however, stage 3 ulcers, like many nursing home injuries, are largely preventable with proper care. Poor care in nursing homes is often the result of understaffing.

Understaffing in nursing homes may lead to stage 3 bedsores because:

  • Caretakers are more likely to leave a resident in bed or a wheelchair for too long
  • Caretakers are less likely to notice the development of early-stage sores
  • Caretakers are less likely to properly treat early-stage sores
  • Caretakers are less likely to take extra precautions against bedsores in high-risk patients

Stage 3 bedsores are serious medical injuries. If not treated quickly, sores may decay through a patient’s ligaments and muscles, down to the bone. Some patients die from the resulting bacterial infections.

In all cases, such suffering is inexcusable. Nursing homes that hire enough well-trained staff can provide the care needed to avoid serious bedsores.

If you or your loved one developed severe bedsores in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Start your free case review today and speak with a trusted legal partner.

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View 6 Sources
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  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, March 9). Bedsores (pressure ulcers). Retrieved November 26, 2019, from
  5. Lyder, C. H., & Ayello, E. A. (2008, April). Pressure Ulcers: A Patient Safety Issue. Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses (12). Retrieved November 26, 2019, from
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