Sitting-acquired deep tissue injury (DTI) is a severe form of pressure ulcer (PU) often affecting patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) who also tend to suffer from intramuscular fat infiltration, soft tissue scarring (due to previous PU), and/or muscle spasticity in their buttocks. We previously used finite element (FE) modeling to evaluate whether abnormal bodyweight is a risk factor for sitting-acquired DTI. Here we hypothesize that fat infiltration, scarring, or spasms increase internal loads in the gluteus muscles in the vicinity of the ischial tuberosities during sitting, which consequently put SCI patients with these conditions at a higher risk for DTI. Our objective was to determine changes in gluteal strains and stresses and tissue volumes exposed to elevated strains/stresses associated with these factors. Thirty-five FE models of coronal slices through the seated buttocks, simulating these conditions at different severities, were developed. We calculated peak strains and stresses in glutei and percentage volumes of muscle tissue exposed to above-critical strains/stresses (compression strain≥50%, compression/von Mises stress≥2 kPa, and strain energy density≥0.5 kPa). Progressive intramuscular fat infiltration increased all the aforementioned outcome measures. Increase in size of scar patterns that were contained in both muscle and fat tissues similarly elevated the outcome measures. Spasms increased muscle stresses and volumetric exposures to stress, but tissue volumes at risk were ∼1-2% and increases due to spasticity were slight. We conclude that the above potential risk factors can be listed according to the following order of importance: (i) fat infiltration, (ii) scars contained in both muscle and fat tissues, and (iii) spasms. This information should be considered when prioritizing prevention means and resources for patients with SCI.
- Intramuscular fat infiltration
- Pressure ulcer
- Spinal cord injury