Thursday, November 1, 2012

Protecting Your Derriere

     Many of us can relate to something that’s a pain in our lower extremities. But for those who sit in a wheelchair or power chair for longer than two hours at a time, discomfort in the posterior could turn into a pressure sore.

     “Anyone who has decreased sensation or circulation, like people with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, incontinence or anyone who cannot reposition themselves while sitting are at risk for pressure sores,” explains assistive technology professional Denver Muir, CRT, ATP, CRTS of Equipped for Life.

     Injuries to the skin and underlying tissues occur when there is prolonged pressure on the skin. Pressure sores or ulcers can develop quickly and are often difficult to treat. Worse yet, wound infections can occur, which increase healing time and can lead to other medical issues.

Pressure mapping
     According to Denver, when a physician prescribes a wheelchair or power chair, a cushion should be included in the order. Most people believe any cushion will do, but rears come in all shapes, contours and sizes. “It’s in your best interest to be pressure mapped,” advises Denver. Pressure mapping is an evaluation tool that uses a mat containing sensors to measure the amount of pressure between a person’s bottom and a cushion. When a person sits on the mat, the sensors read pressure at individual locations on the thigh or buttock.

How it’s done 
     Pressure mapping can be done at a physical therapy clinic, medical equipment retailer or at a client’s home. Currently, Equipped for Life is the only medical supply retailer in Washington County that offers pressure mapping. The mat is placed on a large flat surface and the client is asked to sit on the mat. A digital reading of pressure information appears on the computer screen detailed by colors and numbers: red shades indicate areas of higher pressure and blue tones show areas of lower pressure. After interpreting the data, a trained technician or therapist tries a variety of cushions to determine the best fit based on pressure points, and selects the cushion that provides the least amount of pressure.

Get it right the first time
     Most people select a cushion and think nothing of it. When they develop a pressure sore, they often don’t consider switching out the cushion—or that it’s not the right fit for them. “The best practice is to pressure map someone before they receive their first cushion. This protects them from potential skin breakdown,” emphasizes Denver. It also eliminates the potential cost of additional cushions, medical expenses related to wound care and time restrictions from having an open wound. For people purchasing cushions at Equipped for Life, pressure mapping can be included free of charge.

     Pressure maps are always relative to the individual and can provide you with valuable, visual information about your posterior and the potential for skin breakdown, sparing you the complications of pressure ulcers.

By: Anne Gill

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