Low Air Loss Mattress vs Alternating Pressure Mattress

The health industry is packed with a lot of products, and while they’re each meant for patients with different conditions, some of them are very similar in design. Such is the case with medical mattresses, so choosing the right one for your patient or loved one might be tricky without having the proper information to back up your decision.

Throughout this article, we’re going to answer the question: low air loss mattress vs alternating pressure mattress: what are the main differences?

We’re going to discuss the technology used in their design and when you should use them.

General Design

Low air loss mattresses and alternating pressure mattresses operate under different principles, but there are some similarities. For starters, since they’re both air-type mattresses, they require constant airflow to achieve best results.

Because of this, manufacturers supply air pumps that stream air into the body of the mattress, measured in liters, which can be adjusted according to each patient’s body type, mass, and size.

The pumps have different settings and presets. For example, while resting, the blower or pump will adjust the airflow so that the mattress becomes softer, making it easier for the patient to rest while lying down.

In case the patient needs to get up or sit, the blower can be switched to a “firmness” setting, so that the patient won’t “sink” into the bed, making it easier to move. Blowers are typically included in both low air loss and alternating pressure mattresses.

Low Air Loss Mattress Design

Low air loss mattresses are made using laser technology. A laser is used to cut very small holes on the top side of the mattress body, which enables air to flow all over the surface. A blower will typically output around 100-150 liters of air into the mattress, drying the skin.

This system also gives patients a weightlessness sensation, which is very important for people who are in recovery and must stay in bed for extended periods of time.

Because the mattress is well-vented and reduces pressure to the skin, it will be very useful in treating people that suffer from skin ulcers. This process causes moisture to dissipate, keeping the skin dry, preventing breakdown and increasing comfort by a lot.

Dryness and comfort will provide optimal healing conditions and increase the patient’s morale, very important for their recovery.

Additionally, the low air loss mattress design will increase the comfort of patients who are experiencing constant feverish sensations, due to the constant airflow. Fevers must be taken very seriously when tackling such health issues.

Alternating Pressure Mattress Design

Alternating pressure mattresses operate using an interesting concept. The body of the mattress is filled with air cells, or bladders, which are inflated by a blower. The alternating pressure is achieved by inflating and deflating different cells to relieve pressure on the skin.

While most of the cells have varying air pressure, the head area of the mattress will remain inflated at all times, to act as a pillow.

The blower can be set at a certain air cycle. This means that you can choose how often the pressure shifts, depending on the discomfort suffered by the patient. While it does affect comfort, the blower does get louder when operating shorter cycles, as it outputs more air. For optimal use, we recommend using a lower cycle for resting and a longer cycle for sleeping, to keep things as quiet as possible.

In addition to alleviating skin pressure, the alternating air cell inflation will increase blood flow to the affected areas, another result that brings a significant contribution to preventing and treating extended rest-related conditions.

To put things into perspective

  • Low air loss mattresses will help in treating existing extended rest-related injuries, as the well-ventilated system will keep the patient’s skin dry, preventing further damage to the tissue.
  • Alternating pressure mattresses offer better circulation to the resting area while improving blood flow, due to the alternating pressure system. Additionally, the cells can be easily replaced and are usually damp-proof, but even so, low air loss mattresses keep skin dryer.

Low Air Loss Mattress vs Alternating Pressure Mattress: The Alternative

Here’s where things get a bit more interesting. As you have probably deduced from the information we’ve provided above, they’re both very useful in treating patients with skin conditions or in providing comfort for patients that need to spend extended periods of time in bed as part of their recovery.

Low air loss mattresses provide better ventilation, keeping the skin dryer, preventing and treating skin ulcers. While it is very comfortable and it does provide a lot of comfort to the patient, alternating pressure mattresses are even more comfortable, since they allow certain pressure points to rest in case things get too uncomfortable, while improving blood circulation in the area, for better and healthier skin tissue.

Because both systems have strengths, manufacturers have designed products that blend both technologies used in designing the mattresses. The combined mattress system is designed with a low air loss cover on which the patient can rest, and an alternating pressure base. The hybrid allows patients to experience the best features of both worlds.


The mattress is designed with a low air loss cover. The cover functions exactly the same as a low air loss mattress, with the same perks. The floating sensation is still present and the airflow will still keep the patient’s skin dry.

The base is made using alternating air cells, exactly like the alternating pressure mattress. It functions in the same way, alleviating pressure and improving blood flow. It still operates using a blower, so nothing’s really changed in that sense.


While these types of products will improve the quality of life for people who undergo extended recovery, it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t substitute actual recovery plans and don’t account for muscle atrophy and other extended rest-related health issues. Make sure you still provide proper physical care to your patients or loved ones.

Leave a Comment