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Medical Beds

How to Choose the Best Hospital Bed Mattress

Selecting the best hospital bed mattress for yourself or for someone you care for can be challenging. There are many different hospital bed mattresses on the market, and the choice you make will affect the comfort and health of the patient.

In this article, we will explain what a hospital mattress is and how it is different from a standard home mattress. Then, we take a deep dive into the types of hospital bed mattress and the benefits they provide to patients.

How Is a Hospital Mattress Different to a Standard Mattress?

You may be wondering why you need a hospital mattress in the first place. There are thousands of consumer mattresses to choose from, ranging in price from less than $200 to many thousands of dollars. But for frail, immobile, and bed-bound patients, hospital mattresses have many safety, hygiene, and therapeutic benefits.

Hospital mattresses are designed to work with hospital beds.

While standard domestic mattresses are manufactured in sizes from 6 inches to 18 inches and beyond, hospital bed mattresses usually have a depth of 6 to 7 inches. They are as thin and flexible as possible without compromising support and comfort.

Hospital bed mattresses are designed to work with hospital beds, which include mechanisms for elevating the patient’s head and feet to achieve a variety of therapeutic and comfort positions. Thicker mattresses obstruct and reduce the effectiveness of the bed’s elevation mechanisms.

Hospital mattresses are designed for frail or immobile patients

Standard mattresses typically distribute pressure evenly across the surface of the mattress. That’s the right design decision for patients with full mobility and strength, but it can be dangerous for patients with reduced mobility and weakness.

Falling out of bed is a frequent cause of injury for patients who spend long periods in bed. Frail or immobile patients are also at risk of becoming entangled in the side rails, which can be fatal.

Some hospital mattresses include border edge protection with extra firmness towards the edges. Border edge protection helps patients to maintain a central position on the mattress and reduces the likelihood that they will slip off the bed. It also makes it easier to move patients onto and off the bed. These added benefits are why they’re a standard feature on our hospital bed mattresses.

Hospital mattresses are easily cleaned and include antimicrobial features

Hospital mattresses are designed to resist liquid ingress and to restrict the growth of microbes that cause bad odors and health hazards. As an added layer of protection, you may also want to consider a waterproof cover made of soft stretch vinyl to completely block liquids and odors.

Hospital bed mattresses are designed to support more weight

Standard bed mattresses are likely to be uncomfortable for bariatric patients, and they are not designed for long-term use or heavier weight capacities. Hospital bed mattresses are more robust and durable. They can support heavier patients in greater comfort and are designed for extended use.

Our standard hospital bed mattresses can support patients up to 500 lb and are available in larger-than-standard sizes for patients with specific bariatric requirements. For patients heavier than 500 lb, we provide bariatric hospital bed mattresses that can support up to 750 lb by special order. 

How To Choose the Right Hospital Bed Mattress

Hospital mattresses are available in a wide variety of types engineered to support the requirements of patients who spend long periods in bed and who have specific medical conditions.

Spring Hospital Bed Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses use steel springs to support the weight of the patient. The firmness of the bed depends on the thickness of the springs. Spring mattresses have a support layer on top of the springs for comfort and to provide separation from the core spring layer.

Innerspring mattresses are inexpensive, but they are less suitable for patients who cannot change position easily or those with bariatric conditions. These patients are prone to bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers. Innerspring mattresses do little to prevent the formation of pressure ulcers or to help pressure ulcers to heal.

Memory Foam Hospital Bed Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are made of viscoelastic foam. “Visco” means that the foam deforms in response to pressure and body heat. “Elastic” means that the foam regains its initial shape once the pressure and heat are removed.

Memory foam mattresses conform to the shape and position of the patient, distributing pressure and support more efficiently and comfortably than innerspring mattresses.

Multi-layer or laminate foam mattresses such as the Soft Touch Memory Foam Mattress use layers of foam with different densities to provide variable support. The core layer provides maximum support while other layers give suitable support for joints and extremities, reducing pressure on areas that are prone to pressure ulcers.

Laminate mattresses also include higher density foam towards the outer edges for border protection, which can reduce the risk of patients slipping out of bed or becoming entangled in hospital bed rails.

Pressure Relief Mattresses

Pressure relief mattresses – which are also called air-flow mattresses, low air loss mattresses, or alternating pressure mattresses – include air cells that can be inflated or deflated to control the amount of pressure that each zone of the mattress provides.

Pressure relief mattresses give the greatest control over the pressure that each part of the body experiences. Inflated cells provide firm support, while deflated cells reduce pressure.

These mattresses are ideal for patients who spend long periods in bed or who have difficulty managing their position. Bedsores can quickly form when constant pressure is exerted on the skin for long periods. Bedsores can be extremely painful and may lead to complications, including sepsis and decubitus.

Pressure relief mattresses allow patients and caretakers to adjust pressure over time or to relieve pressure in specific areas, preventing the formation of bedsores and promoting healing in patients with existing sores.

Pressure relief mattresses are available in non-powered and powered versions. For example, the unpowered PressureGuard® CFT®: Non-Powered Dynamic Treatment mattress automatically adjusts the pressure in its air cells for optimal pressure management across the surface.

Powered pressure relief mattresses such as the PressureGuard® APM2 Mattress can be controlled electronically, allowing the mattress to gradually alternate pressure over time. Lateral rotation uses variable pressure in the cells to gently reposition the patient to treat or prevent pressure ulcers.

Which Mattress Is Best for Extended Use and Bedsores?

As you can see from our descriptions of the various types of hospital mattresses, pressure-relief mattresses are the best solution for patients at risk of bedsores. That includes patients with bariatric conditions and patients who face challenges in changing position and who spend long periods in bed.

Balancing Cost With Additional Features and Longevity

Pressure-relief mattresses are the most expensive option. Foam mattresses are less expensive, and innerspring mattresses the least expensive.

Innerspring mattresses are often used on hospital beds, but they are only suitable for patients who don’t spend long periods in bed. Innerspring mattresses are also the least durable and will need to be replaced more frequently than foam or pressure-relief mattresses.

Laminated foam mattresses help to reduce the risk of bedsore formation, they typically have the longest useful life of all mattress types, and they are suitable for patients who spend extended periods in bed.

However, pressure relief mattresses are by far the most effective at preventing and treating bedsores and skin shearing. They are recommended for patients who spend more than 12 hours of their day in bed, particularly elderly patients, patients with limited mobility, and other patients who cannot adjust their position. For patients who already have significant bedsores on their torso, pelvis, or buttocks, a pressure relief mattress is essential.

If you remain unsure about which hospital mattress is best for your situation, don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone to talk to one of our bed experts.

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About Transfer Master

Transfer Master has built electric adjustable hospital beds for the home and medical facility since 1993. We started with a simple goal that hospital beds should allow wheelchair users to transfer independently in and out of bed. Twenty-five years later, our customers are still at the center of everything we do. You’ll feel the difference.