Bedsores are a perennial medical problem for residents of nursing homes. Some residents even die from them.
A 2022 engineering experiment by the University of South Australia resulted in a new mattress technology that includes embedded optical sensors designed to detect signs of distress in a bedridden patient.
How does it work?
The mattress includes tiny fiber optic fibers that can detect patient vitals such as heart rate, breathing and movement. The sensors send reports and signals to nurses about the patient’s activity, reminding the nurse to turn the patient often enough to prevent the sores from forming.
Why do bedsores form?
When a person lies stationary for too long, blood pools at their body’s junctures and pressure points, creating ulcers where their skin, muscles and joints rest against the bed. If nurses do not check for bedsores often enough, or if the bedsores are hard to detect through manual examination, the sores can become infected or gangrenous.
Is the new technology better than what we currently have?
This new option is likely to be an improvement because the current technology only monitors what is happening to the person, whether through a FitBit type of device, respirator or heart rate monitor. The new technology is much less invasive than any of these, provides more robust data to the caregivers and is able to alert others when something seems wrong. Other status quo technologies include weight-based sensors, which break down over time, and cameras which create a significant privacy issue. Mattresses embedded with fiber optics could be more comfortable for the patient and more efficient for the care team.