Mechanical Engineering
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Healthcare Engineering

Risk Evaluation and Prevention of Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcer, a localized breakdown of skin and/or underlying tissues, typically over a weight-bearing bony prominence, due to long periods of unrelieved pressure, shear and/or friction at certain body sites, is a common problem among patients with limited sensory perception, limited mobility, or unable to posture themselves. Pressure ulcers have a detrimental effect on patients health and wellbeing and place a significant economic burden on the healthcare system. Studies suggest that pressure ulcers are related to sustained deformations in deep tissues. Therefore, effects of factors such as internal anatomy, mechanical properties of tissues, blood flow and perfusion need to be investigated. Although commercial/experimental pressure-reducing devices exist (e.g., air, foam, gel cushions), human studies need to be conducted to evaluate their clinical effectiveness in terms of pressure parameters and pressure ulcer occurrence rate in patients as the bottom line outcome. Designs of these pressure-reducing devices may be optimized (such as optimal foam thickness, stiffness, etc.), and more effective devices based on innovative design concepts need to be developed.