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Skin tears in older adults: Nursing care

CPD Hours



Aged care
All Modules
Clinical practice and procedures


Skin tears are the most the common type of wound in elderly people (Le Blanc et al, 2018). The International Skin Tear Advisory Panel (ISTAP) defines a skin tear as

‘… a traumatic wound caused by mechanical forces, including removal of adhesives. Severity may vary by depth (not extending through the subcutaneous layer).’

Until recently skin tears have been treated as a general laceration, however, the Advisory Panel has stated that a skin tear is

‘…a specific injury that is very different from a general laceration (which is defined by soft tissue tearing)’.

70-80% of skin tears occur on the hands or arms. It is thought that skin tears are probably more prevalent than pressure ulcers.

Although prevalence data is somewhat unreliable, some estimates place the proportion of skin tears at 92% for people in long-term care. (Le Blanc et al, 2018)

This course is focused on skin tears in older adults. It explains skin tears and strategies for prevention and best practice care for older adults who experience a skin tear.

This course is designed for all nurses and assistants in nursing, especially those working with older adults in inpatient, community, and residential aged care settings.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Outline the anatomy and physiology of the skin and changes that occur with ageing.
  • Understand why older adults are at highest risk of developing skin tears and complications as a result of injury.
  • Outline the common causes of skin tears in older adults.
  • Identify the three ‘types’ of risk factors for skin tears in older adults.
  • Highlight individual and nursing interventions that can be implemented to reduce the risk of a skin tear in older adults.
  • Distinguish between complicated and uncomplicated skin tears.
  • Describe the steps of best practice care for skin tears including prevention, assessment, classification, and management.
  • Describe the two parts of a comprehensive assessment for patients with a skin tear.
  • Understand how to classify a skin tear based on the STAR or ISTAP classification system.
  • Highlight the steps to managing a skin tear and goals of treatment.
  • Identify the appropriate wound products to use on a skin tear, based on its classification and characteristics.

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