Smart skivvies shock patients to prevent bedsores

Researchers find that patients with spinal cord injuries are not developing bedsores thanks to electric underwear that can mimic fidgeting.

A little shock now and again can be good for you, if you happen to be a bedridden patient at risk of developing bedsores and the shock is delivered through your underwear at very specific intervals.

Vivian Mushahwar's team developed the undies. Dustin Delfs

So says a team of doctors at the University of Calgary, who recently tested their "Smart-e-Pants" on 37 patients with spinal cord injuries -- some of the most challenging patients because they can neither move nor feel when bedsores are forming.

The researchers found that by placing two pads of electrodes on each, er, cheek, and stimulating each patient's backside for 10 seconds every 10 minutes for 12 hours a day, not a single patient developed a single sore over the course of a month.

They presented their findings this week at the Neuroscience 2012 conference in New Orleans.

It's unclear precisely how mere stimulation -- which apparently mimics the typical fidgeting most of us do in bed -- can relieve actual pressure to prevent pressure sores, but the team says that by stimulating the muscles enough for them to contract, blood, oxygen, and nutrients are able to reach the affected tissue.

While the skivvies were apparently popular with the nurses and doctors on staff, the researchers did stipulate that much larger studies are needed to truly test just how effective these underpants are at preventing sores.

About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.

 

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