Choosing the Best Alternating Pressure Mattress

Choosing the Best Alternating Pressure Mattress

With so many alternating pressure mattresses on the market, choosing the Best Alternating Pressure Mattress system is a daunting task. The most important consideration is the therapeutic needs of the patient.

In the prevention and treatment of pressure sores, patient need is determined by the patient’s health care provider.  However, a wound care specialist may be more qualified to accurately suggest the best equipment for healing and prevention. This is made a little more complex by the plethora of alternating pressure mattress systems on the market.

Many alternating pressure mattresses look similar, make the same claims and can vary widely in price range however, there are significant differences between the features, functions and benefits. Here is a background and are a few things to look for:


Patient profile:
There are many patient factors that must be taken into consideration however, the majority of patients fall into the following profile:

  • 100 lbs. – 350 lbs.
  • Prevention or treatment of stage I – IV sores
  • During the day or night sits or sleeps and an incline
  • Transfers or requires transfer out of the mattress for care


Prime factors leading to the development of a pressure sore:
There are many considerations however, the prime factors in the development of a pressure ulcers are:

  • Pressure
  • Moisture
  • Heat
  • Shearing
  • Friction


Therapy offered by the Mattress:

In choosing a mattress for the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers stages I – IV choose one capable of addressing the 5 prime factors. Look for a mattress that combines several therapies: Alternating Pressure and Low Air Loss in one system. Alternating pressure with low air loss is considered a prime therapeutic modality in the prevention and treatment of pressure sores as it addresses pressure, moisture and heat.


Mattress Cover:

The mattress cover is extremely important. A low-shear, low-friction cover addresses shearing and friction while a multi-stretch feature improves comfort. Look for a mattress with a cover with the following benefits:

  • Low Shear -    Helps Prevent Shearing Injuries
  • Low Friction -  Helps Prevent Friction Injuries
  • Multi-Stretch Urethane -        Improves Comfort and durability
  • Anti-microbial - Hygiene and Infection control
  • Anti-bacterial - Hygiene and Infection control
  • Fluid proof - Hygiene and Infection control
  • Stain resistant - Aesthetic
  • Fire retardant - Patient Safety
  • Durable Zipper - Prevents separation of cover
  • Waterfall Flap - Prevents body or cleaning fluid intrusion

You do not want a mattress with a vinyl or fabric cover.



Features and construction are the main factors that separate high quality from lower quality pumps. There are systems with more “advanced” functions. Some are more marketing hype than of real benefit. Choose a mattress with a pump that at least offers the following functions:

  • • Alternation mode -    For pressure redistribution
  • • Static mode -    For safe patient transfer and care
  • • Adjustable comfort settings  -   Patient comfort
  • • Low pressure alert -   Patient care
  • • Loss of power alert - Patient care
  • • Fall back mode  - Prevention of care giver error
  • • Metal pump parts with vibration mountings instead of plastic. - Pump longevity, reliability and whisper quiet function
  • • Better systems have dual pumps    - Whisper quiet function, faster inflation, durability, longevity, best for heavier patients
  • • Higher liter air flow - Faster inflation, longevity, best for heavier patients


Mattress Features

In addition to the above, you should choose an alternating pressure mattress that offers the following features:

  • Static Head bladders   -         Prevents head from moving during alternation mode
  • Ventilated body bladders  -    Provides Low Air Loss therapy
  • Specialized heel bladders -    Additional protection against heel ulcers
  • Static air base   -                    Prevents bottoming out during power outage
  • Non-kinking hoses  -              Improves air flow while inclined, effectiveness, reliability
  • Bladders made from TPU -    Maximum durability and longevity


The material and welding used in the construction of an alternating pressure low air loss mattress is often difficult to determine however, very important for the durability, reliability and longevity of the mattress. The most durable material is TPU, Thermoplastic Polyurethane. TPU is extremely durable and soft to the touch.


Other considerations

Availability of parts is a very important consideration. Most companies do not offer mattress and pump parts therefore the entire mattress or pump must be replaced. This is very costly, especially when a simple parts replacement fixes the issue. Look for a mattress made by a company that offers and stocks mattress and pump parts for immediate shipment.


Competitive Bidding

While the term sounds enticing this does not translate into a benefit to the consumer. In fact, mattresses made for competitive bidding instituted by Medicare to lower costs, are meant to meet a purchase price point by Medicare. This resulted in many manufacturers sourcing inexpensively built products overseas to “bid competitively”.

These products are of lower quality, reliability and durability however, most importantly effectiveness. Some of these systems function however, they don’t work. Meaning operationally the bladders alternate but the patient still breaks down. This leaves the patient thinking that alternating pressure with low air loss therapy does not work but this is not the case. When choosing an alternating pressure low air loss mattress system, make sure it is not a mattress that was made for competitive bidding.



Alternating pressure mattress with low air loss systems range in price from three hundred to ten thousand dollars or more. While the low cost systems seem attractive, the patient is the one who suffers when the system is ineffective or unreliable. There is a much higher cost of ownership. Conversely, the higher cost systems are not necessarily worth the over-inflated price. Much of what you are charged for is name or marketing. Furthermore, most of the names selling high-end systems do not manufacture and purchase their systems from contract manufacturers. This drives the price way up. For a high-quality alternating pressure with low air loss mattress system expect to pay between $1,500 - $3,000.


Product Knowledge

Choosing the best alternating pressure mattress system is an important health-care decision. Unfortunately for many people reading this article, they have experienced first-hand the lack of product knowledge of the healthcare providers/suppliers/medical dealers of these therapeutic  mattress systems. This leaves consumers/care-givers on their own to determine which is the best mattress system for the individual needs of a patient. When choosing a mattress system, ask questions, educate yourself. If you are not comfortable with the answers or you know more than the person on the other end of the phone who is reading from a catalog, call someone who is knowledgeable and can provide accurate product advice.


From experienced gained over two decades in the industry, taking the above factors into consideration will help make choosing the best alternating pressure mattress system much easier.