October 18, 2012

Shockingly Good Underwear

Bedsores can be a real problem for any bedridden person, either at home or in a hospital. Those who are unable to move in their bed can develop these bedsores, or pressure ulcers. According to the Mayo Clinic, these sores are “injuries to skin and underlying tissues that result from prolonged pressure on the skin.”

Patients can develop these sores if they sit in one spot for too long without moving. Once these sores develop, they can often be difficult to treat and can even be deadly if they become infected. These sores often develop on a patients ankles, legs or hind-quarters. Preventing these sores seems easy enough; Just move every now and again. For some patients, however, “just move” is the hardest thing in the world to do. For years, doctors have had to fight off bedsores in these patients by moving them or shifting them as gently as possible.

Now, a group of Canadian doctors have figured out a way to prevent these bedsores in immobile patients, and the result is, how do you say, shocking.

Enter “Smart E-Pants,” a pair of trousers with electrodes embedded in each cheek meant to shock the patient’s backend periodically.

According to their tests, sending low-voltage shocks through the patient’s keister is just the trick for preventing bedsores without having to jostle or move the patient. To test their new, shockingly helpful underwear, these doctors dressed 37 spinal cord injury patients in their new skivvies. Every 10 minutes for 12 hours a day, the electrodes would send a low current shock straight into the patient’s butt for 10-second intervals. According to Dr. Sean Dukelow, a physiatrist in the department of clinical neurosciences at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, these shocks are just enough to mimic the fidgeting and shifting movements necessary for staving off the painful bedsores. “This helps relieve pressure on the skin, increase blood flow and prevent the sores from forming,” said Dr. Dukelow, speaking with ABC News.

It’s not just those without the ability to move who are in danger of contracting these sores. According to Dr. Albert Levy, an assistant professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, elderly patients are also at a high risk for contracting pressure ulcers.

“Their circulation is compromised to begin with, they don’t move around as much, and they have less body fat to pad them,” explained Dr. Levy.

Doctors Dukelow and Levy are presenting their findings at the Neuroscience 2012 conference in New Orleans this week. Though these Smart E-Pants are still in the testing phase, experts are saying a commercially available version of the undergarments could cost around $300, plus $16 or so every month to replace the electrodes.

“I think awareness of pressure ulcers over the last five or 10 years has increased dramatically, people realize what damage it can do to them,” said Dr. Dukelow as he addressed members of the conference this week.

“Some of our patients would say, ‘I am a sitting duck for this, if there is any chance that this will prevent it, I’ll do it’. They are often very scared about the fact that this could happen to them.”

Image Credit: ayazad / Shutterstock

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