Trinity Engineers Develop New Technology that Could Prevent Pressure Ulcers for Patients

Posted on: 15 November 2011

A team of researchers at Trinity's School of Engineering have developed a new technology that uses sensors to track the blood flow in the tissue of immobile patients offering medical practitioners an opportunity to stop the development of pressure ulcers. 

Current methods for detecting restricted blood flow in the tissue of patients include ultrasound or electromagnetic flowmetry.  These methods are restrictive as they can only measure the tissue by actually lifting the limb or moving the patient thereby changing the usual pressure environment experienced by the patient.  The development of contactless sensors by the Trinity team means healthcare practitioners can place these sensors underneath mattresses, wheelchairs or any supporting surface.  These sensors can then be linked to a laptop where the data is collected and interpreted by a clinician.

Speaking about the technology, Research Fellow based at both Trinity's Centre of Bioengineering and the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Dr Sonja Hermann said: "The sensor device could potentially be used in conjunction with the pressure release mattresses that some hospitals now use.  These air filled beds shift pressure in cycles so one body part is never under pressure for too long.  Most clinicians however do not know how to fully manipulate their control settings.  In the future, the data from the sensors could feed directly into the mattresses rotation settings, ensuring that no pressure is applied to those tissue areas that are most at risk of developing ulcers in the patient and offering optimum comfort for the patient."

The treatment of advanced stage pressure ulcers incurs extremely high costs for the healthcare system.   The Trinity team are currently performing clinical trials of the medical sensor technology in order to gain a better understanding of how different illnesses affect tissue blood flow and hope to commercialise their research in the near future.  For further information please refer to the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering website.