Prevent Wheelchair Pressure Ulcers: The Power of Pressure Mapping

Quality of life depends on a few factors: enough necessities, quality sleep, a thriving community, and an absence of discomfort and pain. While all life carries some of each, the more comfortable a person is, the happier they will be.


This presents wheelchair users with a conundrum because the very act of sitting much, or all of the time can lead to a higher chance of excruciating pressure sores.


Pressure sores, also referred to as pressure injuries, are an all-too-common result of using a wheelchair. They arise from repeated contact between the body—especially areas where skin and muscle are stretched tightly over bony protuberances—and the surface.


Indeed, pressure injuries are such a common problem that the National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel (NPIAP) has developed guidelines in collaboration with the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel. “The goal of this international collaboration,” says NPIAP, “was to develop evidence-based recommendations for the prevention and treatment of pressure injuries that could be used by health professionals throughout the world.”


In addition to following essential guidelines, clinicians and therapists must understand the role pressure mapping plays in preventing sores. Let’s look at why pressure ulcers occur, how to minimize and prevent them, and how to implement a sensor-based pressure mapping system.


The Pressure Ulcer Conundrum


Unfortunately, sustained pressure on any area of the body puts one at risk of developing pressure sores. Because the higher pressure reduces blood flow, sores develop, and tissue dies where they’re left untreated.


In the initial stages, you will see skin color and texture changes, such as a spongy or rigid feeling, temperature increases in the pressure sore area, and pain or itchiness.


Over time, pressure sores that begin at the body's surface can penetrate more deeply, reaching underlayers of skin and even muscle. In later stages of pressure injury, the sores weep and ooze and can become infected. In older people or those with compromised immunity, this infection has severe or even deadly potential.


That’s why it’s so important to nip sores in the bud. Let’s examine how.


Reducing Wheelchair Pressure Ulcers


The best way to reduce the impact of bedsores or pressure ulcers—if the patient is in a bed or wheelchair, respectively—is to ensure they never develop. Prevention can reduce skin loss, keep blood flow normal, and minimize the incidence of adverse health conditions.


To do so, it’s essential to take the following steps:

  • Keep skin clean and dry. Reducing moisture in the area is a significant way to decrease the development of a sore because moisture increases friction and soreness from rubbing or resting. Keeping the skin dry also reduces the incidence of an infection developing in areas with sores.
  • Change positions frequently. Even in a wheelchair, patients may have some freedom of movement. They may be able to move their legs, adjust their pelvis level, lean to one side or another, lean back, or lean forward on arms or a tray. Maintaining frequent adjustments helps the patient keep pressure off any one area for too long.
  • Check the skin frequently. Catching pressure sores early can go a long way toward minimizing how dangerous they are to the patient. Look for red, swollen, hot, stiff, spongy, itchy, or painful areas.
  • Use specially designed cushions to prevent sores. These cushions minimize the pressure experienced by bony parts of the body.

One of the best things you can do to reduce wheelchair pressure ulcers, perhaps even more important than patient care, is ensuring a correct fit between patient and wheelchair. That’s not to say patient care isn’t critical, but even the best care can’t make up for improper seating.


Let’s focus on how proper seating ensures proper safety in wheelchairs.


Assessing Patient Wheelchair Seating and Safety


Unfortunately, adjusting the patient frequently, keeping them clean, and monitoring their comfort is insufficient. Without the right seat cushions and other padding, the patient is at risk of developing a pressure sore, no matter how well you care for them.


Sensors with advanced mapping technology can provide a comprehensive and accurate visualization of pressure points for wheelchair users, offering valuable insights into areas of discomfort and potential issues.


Here’s how it works:

  • Lay the sensor mat over the base, back, or other wheelchair part where you want to take readings.
  • Have the patient sit in the wheelchair as they usually would.
  • The pressure mapping system will take pressure readings across the mat in real time, measuring the differential at various points and creating a visual map of pressure—red and orange for high, yellow for medium, and green and blue for low.
  • Examine the raw data the system provides to address issues more granularly.
  • Adjust the seating as necessary with cushions and inserts, watching to see if the adjustment relieves areas of high pressure.
  • Adjust the patient’s seating as needed in the current session and later visits.


Let XSENSOR Help You


Ready for the wheelchair pressure mapping system that can change your practice and patient’s lives?


XSENSOR is here to help with the ForeSite® SS, a pressure mapping system designed to help therapists and clinicians reduce and prevent pressure injuries in wheelchair users. The system shows you where bodily pressure is elevated so you can better adjust your clients, offer the proper padding, and make a long-term plan for healthy wheelchair seating.


XSENSOR’s cutting-edge sensor-based technology uses thousands of pressure points and up to a thousand frames per second to ensure the highest quality data so you can see exactly what’s happening between your client and their seat—in space and time. Book your demonstration to learn how to incorporate wheelchair pressure imaging in your clinic or hospital.

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