Prevention of Pressure Ulcer Formation using Intermittent Electrical Stimulation

Funding Details
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Grant type: Operating Grant
  • Years: 2012/13 to 2015/16
  • Total Funding: $459,602
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Project Summary

Pressure ulcers, also known as bed or pressure sores, are serious lesions of the skin, fat and muscle that are common in people who are unable to move on their own. They often develop in people with spinal cord injury, in the elderly, people in coma or even people who undergo long surgeries. About 60,000 people die each year in the US from complications related to pressure ulcers. Superman (Christopher Reeve) died from blood poisoning resulting from an infected pressure ulcer. None of the interventions currently available have been able to prevent the formation of these ulcers. We developed a novel electrical stimulation approach that periodically produces contractions in muscles compressed between a bone and an external surface (e.g., the muscles we sit on). The contractions produce "fidgeting movements" similar to the subconscious adjustments in posture frequently performed by people who have full mobility and sensation. The goal of this project is to test whether this approach is effective in preventing the formation of pressure ulcers. If successful, this intervention could play a very important role in improving the lives of people with reduced mobility and sensation. It will also save the Canadian health care system approximately $3.5 billion a year.