The origins of pressure sores have been well documented for centuries— the combination of unrelieved pressure and force put upon the body. However, from a technological perspective, relatively little progress has been made towards reducing the rates pressure sores in patients with heightened risk factors.
From a preventative standpoint, the most widely suggested preventative technique remains turning patients at regular intervals to encourage the bodies natural circulatory process to bring vital oxygen and nutrients to areas of the body that can be starved off from these necessities when patients remain in one position for extended periods of time.
Pressure sore prevention plans remain a fixture at many medical and care facilities that care for the elderly and immobile patients. While promising in theory, these plans require the constant work from facility staff to effectively carry out.
Given the heavy work loads typically placed upon staff in nursing homes and other care facilities, the sad reality is that pressure sore prevention plans typically are not consistently carried out. Consequently, the development of pressure sores at medical facilities remains among the most significant threats to patient well-being.
In this light, I was really encouraged to read about a new pressure sore reduction technology that holds the promise of significantly improving the lives of millions of people who are at risk for developing pressure sores. The product known as Smart-e-Pants was developed by a team of experts in the fields of medcine, engineering and physical medicine who studied different aspects of pressure sores over five year period.
The end product may be reminiscent of ordinary bicycle shorts, but really is an undergarment with embedded electrical sensors to help simulate mini-muscle movements that healthy people ordinary make when they sit in a chair or lay down in bed.
According to one of the product’s developers Dr. Ming Chan, a rehabilitation medicine specialist for Alberta Health Services at Glenrose; “[o]ur aim is to prevent pressure ulcers by bringing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. Smart-e-pants provides an electrical current for 10 seconds every 10 minutes stimulating the nerves and muscles to replicate what we do when we ‘fidget’ in our chair.”
While it may be a while before we see smart-e-pants devices broadly used in nursing homes and hospitals, researchers are encouraged from the initials trial and at tests completed with a pilot group of patients.
As we cautiously wait for more extensive trials to run their course, I am grateful to see more attention getting placed upon what truly has become an epidemic at many facilities. Who knows? Smart-e-pants may become standard issue to patients at risk for at nursing homes and hospitals?