Bioengineering considerations in the prevention of medical device-related pressure ulcers

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2019 Jul:67:70-77. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2019.04.018. Epub 2019 Apr 28.


Background: In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that medical device-related pressure ulcers represent a significant burden to both patients and healthcare providers. Medical devices can cause damage in a variety of patients from neonates to community based adults. To date, devices have typically incorporated generic designs with stiff polymer materials, which impinge on vulnerable soft tissues. As a result, medical devices that interact with the skin and underlying soft tissues can cause significant deformations due to high interface pressures caused by strapping or body weight.

Methods: This review provides a detailed analysis of the latest bioengineering tools to assess device related skin and soft tissue damage and future perspectives on the prevention of these chronic wounds. This includes measurement at the device-skin interface, imaging deformed tissues, and the early detection of damage through biochemical and biophysical marker detection. In addition, we assess the potential of computational modelling to provide a means for device design optimisation and material selection.

Interpretation: Future collaboration between academics, industrialists and clinicians should provide the basis to improve medical device design and prevent the formation of these potentially life altering wounds. Ensuring clinicians report devices that cause pressure ulcers to regulatory agencies will provide the opportunity to identify and improve devices, which are not fit for purpose.

Keywords: Bioengineering; Biomarkers; Biophysical sensing; Computational modelling; Medical device related pressure ulcer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioengineering / methods*
  • Body Weight
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Pressure
  • Pressure Ulcer / etiology
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Skin / pathology


  • Polymers