A new European research project has successfully invented a portable and non-invasive device that prevents pressure ulcer development. Project PUMA was technically co-ordinated by the Biomechanics Institute (IBV) and offers a solution to the discomfort of pressure ulcers that can plague wheelchair users.
Whilst the prognosis for pressure ulcer (PU) sufferers is good and the condition is preventable, the solutions currently available are not particularly effective. Management relies on pressure reduction rather than tissue viability and no account is taken of the user’s characteristics, context or state. Consequently, current PU prevention strategies are not optimally combined.
The new PUMA device has three independent systems. Ignacio Bermejo, IBV Innovation Director of Rehabilitation and Personal Autonomy, explained that PUs are prevented through the detection and elimination of risk by proposing various different strategies to the wheelchair user. The three factors are the postural control system offered by the wheelchair, a dynamic cushion and a pair of shorts embedded with a smart textile that measures pressure, tissue viability and can also apply FES (functional electro-stimulation) to the wearer.
How it works
Real time information is sent from the cushion and the shorts to a computer system contained within the wheelchair. The system is controlled by a smartphone app held by the user. The data is evaluated so that postural risks are identified in each situation. In practice, the app would detect how long a user had been sitting in the same position and would suggest various actions to prevent PU formation based on that data. Chair position could be adjusted, the cushion could be modified, or electro-stimulation could be applied directly via the shorts to at-risk areas.
The PUMA solution is the result of two years of research into T-SCI patients and it is hoped that this remarkable new technology will provide a viable and effective method of relieving an age-old problem for those who spend much of their lives confined to a wheelchair.
Image source: handicare.co.uk