Pressure ulcers (PUs) are one of the most prevalent adverse events in acute and chronic care. The root aetiological cause of PUs is sustained cell and tissue deformations, which triggers a synergistic tissue damage cascade that accelerates over relatively short time periods. Changes in skin microclimate conditions are known to indirectly contribute to PU-risk levels or to exacerbation of existing wounds. It is therefore surprising that information concerning heat accumulation under dressings is poor. Here, we aimed to investigate the effects of dressings on the microclimate of weight-bearing buttocks skin in 1-hour supine lying sessions. Using a novel and originally developed experimental-computational approach, we compared the combined influence of the mechanical and thermal properties of a polymeric membrane dressing (PolyMem, Ferris Mfg. Corp., Fort Worth, TX) on skin microclimate under and near the dressings with those of a standard placebo foam dressing. We specifically identified the thermal conductivity properties of dressings as being highly important in the context of protective dressing performances, given its association with potential heat accumulation under dressings. Accordingly, this article highlights, for the first time in the literature, the relevance of thermal properties of a dressing in effectively mitigating the risk of developing PUs or aggravating an injury, and offers a systematic, methodological bioengineering process for assessing the thermal performances of dressings.
- finite element method
- heat accumulation
- multiphysics computational modelling
- pressure ulcer prophylaxis