(NaturalNews) Researchers from the University of Calgary (UoC) in Canada have come up with an unconventional new method of treating bed sores that they say could help save health systems around the world billions of dollars every year. As reported by BBC News, doctors from the school have devised double-padded underpants that literally shock the buttocks of immobile patients with electricity in order to simulate actual movement and prevent the development of pressure ulcers.
Patients with spinal cord injuries and other debilitating conditions and illnesses are often confined to wheelchairs or hospital beds for extended periods of time, which makes them prone to developing localized injuries on the skin in areas where constant pressure is being applied, but no movement is taking place. These injuries, which are typically referred to as bed sores, can take several weeks to heal, and often require constant attention and intervention by medical staff.
Common protocols for preventing bed sores include things like rotating patients every few hours onto their sides in order to relieve pressure on their buttocks, hips, and other sensitive areas, as well as encouraging patients with some mobility to lift themselves or reposition their bodies at regular intervals. But these and other conventional methods are not always foolproof, as many patients still end up getting bed sores, which ends up costing health services about $10 billion a year collectively.
"Pressure ulcers can be terribly debilitating. Their incidence has not changed since the 1940s, indicating that the current methods of prevention simply are not working," said Robyn Rogers, a research nurse at UoC, about the findings. "Our hope is that this innovative, clinically friendly system will eventually make a difference in the lives of millions of people."
Presented at the recent Neuroscience 2012 conference, the study involved 37 patients who were told to wear the electro-shock pants for 30 days. During this time, the pants were programmed to deliver 10 seconds of electric stimulation every 10 minutes for 12 hours a day. The intent was to simulate movement by agitating the skin, a protocol that was determined to be a significant success.
By the end of the study, not a single patient given the electric pants developed any bed sores, which was perceived as a success. Experts warn; however, should the pants be adopted on a larger scale, patients will still need appropriate care from well-trained hospital staff.
"Prevention is the best medicine -- if we could prevent [bed sores] we'd be much further ahead on lowering costs and saving lives," added Dr. Sean Dukelow, also from UoC.