Strains and stresses in sub-dermal tissues of the buttocks are greater in paraplegics than in healthy during sitting

Eran Linder-Ganz, Noga Shabshin, Yacov Itzchak, Ziva Yizhar, Itzhak Siev-Ner, Amit Gefen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


A pressure-related deep tissue injury (DTI) is a severe pressure ulcer, which initiates in muscle tissue overlying a bony prominence (e.g. the ischial tuberosities, IT) and progresses outwards through fat and skin, unnoticed by the paralyzed patient. We recently showed that internal strains and stresses in muscle and fat of individuals at anatomical sites susceptible to DTI can be evaluated by integrating Open-MRI scans with subject-specific finite element (FE) analyzes (Linder-Ganz et al., Journal of Biomechanics, 2007); however, sub-dermal soft tissue strains/stresses from paraplegics are still missing in literature. We hypothesize that the pathoanatomy of the buttocks in paraplegia increases the internal soft tissue loads under the IT, making these patients inherently susceptible to DTI. We hence compared the strain and stress peaks in the gluteus muscle and fat tissues under the IT of six healthy and six paraplegic patients, using the coupled MRI-FE method. Peak principal compression, principal tension, von Mises and shear strains in the gluteus were 1.2-, 3.1-, 1.4- and 1.4-fold higher in paraplegics than in healthy, respectively (p<0.02). Likewise, peak principal compression, principal tension, von Mises and shear stresses in the gluteus were 1.9-, 2.5-, 2.1- and 1.7-fold higher for the paraplegics (p<0.05). Peak gluteal compression and shear stresses decreased by as much as 70% when the paraplegic patients moved from a sitting to a lying posture, indicating on the effectiveness of recommending such patients to lie down after prolonged periods of sitting. This is the first attempt to compare internal soft tissue loads between paraplegic and healthy subjects, using an objective standardized bioengineering method of analysis. The findings support our hypothesis that internal tissue loads are significantly higher in paraplegics, and that postural changes significantly affect these loads. The method of analysis is useful for quantifying the effectiveness of various interventions to alleviate sub-dermal tissue loads at sites susceptible to pressure ulcers and DTI, including cushions, mattresses, recommendations for posture and postural changes, etc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-580
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


FundersFunder number
Slezak Super Center for Cardiac Research and Biomedical Engineering
Tel Aviv University


    • Decubitus ulcer
    • Deep tissue injury
    • Mechanical properties
    • Pressure sore
    • Rehabilitation of wheelchair users


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