Risk factors for a pressure-related deep tissue injury: A theoretical model

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Pressure-related deep tissue injury is the term recommended by the United States National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel to describe a potentially life-threatening form of pressure ulcers, characterized by the presence of necrotic tissue under intact skin, and associated with prolonged compression of muscle tissue under bony prominences. In this study, a theoretical model was used to determine the relative contributions of the backrest inclination angle during prolonged wheelchair sitting, the muscle tissue stiffness and curvature of the ischial tuberosities (ITs) to the risk for injury in the gluteus muscles that pad the IT bones during sitting. The model is based on Hertz's theory for analysis of contact pressures between a rigid half-sphere (bone) and an elastic half-space (muscle). Hertz's theory is coupled with an injury threshold and damage law for muscle - both obtained in previous studies in rats. The simulation outputs the time-dependent bone-muscle contact pressures and the injured area in the gluteus. We calculated the full-size (asymptotic) injured area in the gluteus and the time for injury onset for different sitting angles α(90-50°), muscle tissue long-term shear moduli G (250-1,200 Pa) and bone diameters D (8-18 mm). We then evaluated the sensitivity of model results to variations in these parameters, in order to determine how injury predictions are affected. In reclined sitting (α = 150°) the full-size injured area was ∼2.1-fold smaller and the time for injury onset was ∼ 1.3-fold longer compared with erect sitting (α = 90°). For greater G the full-size injured area was smaller but the time for injury onset was shorter, e.g., increasing G from 250 to 1200 Pa decreased the full-size injured area ∼2.5-fold, but shortened the time for injury onset 6.2-fold. For smaller D the time for injury onset dropped, e.g., decreased ∼1.5-fold when D decreased from 18 to 8 mm. Interestingly, the full-size injured area maximized at D of about 12 mm but decreased for smaller or larger D. The susceptibility to sitting-acquired deep tissue injury strongly depends on the geometrical and biomechanical characteristics of the bone-muscle interface, and, particularly, on the radius of curvature of the IT which mostly influenced the size of the wound, and on the muscle stiffness which dominantly affected the time for injury onset.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-573
Number of pages11
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Bedsore
  • Decubitus
  • Pressure ulcer
  • Rehabilitation
  • Wheelchair sitting


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