Textile pressure ulcer prevention : Improving quality of life for the bedridden
Immobile patients are in constant danger of developing pressure ulcers on the skin. Empa, Schoeller Medical and the Swiss Paraplegic Centre have worked together to develop a special sheet that is gentle on the skin and helps to make patients more comfortable.
The skin is the most versatile of our organs: It protects the body from environmental effects, contributes to the body’s immune system and supports metabolic functions such as breathing. The skin is always in action. Lack of movement is anathema to it. If a patient does not move, the ever higher moisture levels, pressure and effects of gravity lead to circulatory disorders. This increases the amount of toxic tissue, resulting in ulcers which can lead to life-threatening complications.This affects two groups of patients in particular: the elderly and paraplegics. There is an up to 50 per cent higher risk of these persons developing bedsores during a hospital stay, despite all the advances in methods of care. Four out of five paraplegics develop a pressure ulcer at least once in their life. Medical technology has recognized the problem. There are many approaches to increasing the comfort of those at risk of developing pressure ulcers. But some of these methods are not sufficiently effective, while others – such as mattresses with changing areas of pressure – are still very expensive.
Bed linen is the solution
Anke Scheel, senior physician at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre (SPC) in Nottwil, Canton Lucerne, did therefore not hesitate when Empa asked the center to become involved in a project to develop a new kind of bed linen. “It seemed such a simple solution,” recalls Scheel, “that’s what I liked about it.” The project is led by Siegfried Derler, who works at the Department of Protection and Physiology at Empa in St. Gallen. The trained physicist has devoted several years to research into the skin and friction, and he is currently working on the development of skin-friendly materials and surfaces. Derler has been researching the medical phenomenon of pressure ulcers since 2006. Back then he launched an initial CTI project for textile pressure ulcer prevention along with the Schoeller Group, a leading international provider of technical textiles. The results were very encouraging, and three years later the partners decided to raise the stakes, inviting the SPC to get involved.