Diagnostic device for pressure ulcer formation


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Membership level
2014-2015 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
Diagnostic device for pressure ulcer formation
Design Challenge
Pressure sores affect over 2.5 million people in the United States, costing up to $11 billion per year. The current standard for detecting pressure sores used by nurses has low specificity and sensitivity, 57.5% and 67.5% respectively, leading to poor treatment and high readmission rates. We've been tasked with designing a low cost portable sensor that can be used by care providers in order to prevent pressure sore formation.
Design Summary
PUs are caused by the application of prolonged pressure, resulting in ischemia and subsequent tissue necrosis. Since pressure-induced ischemia alters blood reperfusion and oxygen concentration levels, measuring O2 changes prior to and after reperfusion is a promising indicator for PU formation. Our device thus uses a transient loading method to measure the changes in oxygen concentration during blood reperfusion within the areas of skin with potential PUs. A reflectance pulse oximetry sensor is used to measure the oxygen saturation of the tissue before, during, and after pressure loading, while a linear actuator applies a controlled amount of pressure to allow for accurate sensor readings and slight blood occlusion. The loading is controlled via feedback between the actuator and an embedded load cell, preventing excessive forces from being applied to the patient.

Our device was shown to be low-cost, easy-to-use, portable, and adaptable on a variety of patients and body locations, making it an attractive and feasible option for many hospitals and nursing homes, areas with high rates of PU development. Our method of quantitatively detecting ulcer formation was validated by the statistically significant difference in O2 change between the healthy patient and patient with a simulated PU, and by monitoring blood reperfusion, our device will be a lower cost alternative to many products currently in development, such as the SEM scanner or portable ultrasound technologies. Thus, our device can act as a low cost, quantitative method for detecting PUs, a necessity that currently doesn't exist for healthcare settings.
Date Updated3
Date Updated
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Dr. Catherine Ambrose, Orthopedic Surgery Faculty
Lex Frieden, Health Informatics Faculty
Eric Richardson, PhD

This project was sponsored by Carolyn and Harrell L. Huff. The design work for this project was supported by the resources of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.
Sponsor Logo
  • Bioengineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Eric Richardson
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • BIOE

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
- 2015 Willy Revolution Award for Innovation in Engineering Design
- Design of Medical Devices Conference International Student Design Showcase - Finalist
- SB3C Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices - Finalist

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Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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