Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 19th 2014 Contents Researchers have developed a new
type of pressure sensor---dubbed a
"second skin"---which they say could
prevent dangerous sores.
The technology is being developed
initially for amputees who suffer rub-
bing against their artificial limbs.
If the Southampton University work
is successful the sensors may also be
used for others at risk, such as wheel-
chair-users and those confined to bed.
The new technology could be avail-
able to NHS patients within three
Pressure sensors are already used,
but this Medical Research Council-
backed project---in partnership with
the prosthetics firm Blatchford---differs
in that it is able to detect rubbing as
well as downward pressure.
This could make it better at detect-
ing sores at an earlier stage.
Richard Bradbury, 26, who is a tech-
nician at Blatchford and had an ampu-
tation below his right knee soon after
he was born and then above the knee
in his teens, has long experience of
discomfort caused by pressure and
rubbing against his prosthetic limb.
"It can be very distressing.
"When I was younger and getting
bigger and growing more I had up to
four or five legs a year. And because
you re getting bigger you re not going
into the socket as much. And it can
rub, it can create sores, blisters."
It is thought there are about 50,000
lower limb amputees in the UK. A
report in 2000 by the Audit Com-
mission said nearly one in four did
not use their prosthetic limbs as much
as they would like---often because of
pain and discomfort.
Dr Andy Franklyn Miller, a sports
medicine specialist who has worked
extensively with military amputees,
said it was still a serious problem.
"A limb that doesn t fit because of
pain means a limb that can t be worn.
And often that then accompanies an
increase in weight which means the
socket that the body fits into, no
longer fits. And so it s a real catch-
The sensor is thin and flexible like
a small golden postage stamp. It is
taped to a liner---essentially a cush-
ioned sock---which is then placed in
the socket connecting the stump and
the artificial limb.
It sends that information to
researchers and clinicians who can
monitor the pressure peaks and
troughs as the patient walks, and see
if any adjustments are needed to pre-
vent discomfort or pain.
The researchers are planning to
develop a system of traffic light alerts
for smartphones, warning of potential
problems. That may mean just putting
on an extra sock for padding, because
the stump can change shape during
the course of the day. Or it may mean
a visit to a clinic for further assess-
Dr Liudi Jiang from the University
of Southampton, who is leading the
project, says the sensors could act as
what she calls a "second skin."
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 19, 2014
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YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
A patient who awoke from an
anaesthetic minutes before major sur-
gery has spoken of the "terrifying"
Alexandra Bythell found herself wide
awake with her eyes taped, breathing
tubes in her throat and medical staff
preparing to operate.
Ms Bythell, 36, from Burnley, was
having an appendix removed at Royal
Blackburn Hospital in the north of Eng-
land. The East Lancashire Hospital NHS
Trust has apologised and paid undis-
closed damages for her psychological
It admitted staff had failed to check
the levels on an anaesthetic machine
but said new procedures were now in
place to prevent the same thing hap-
Ms Bythell, a psychiatric nurse, was
told to count backwards from 10 as she
received her anaesthetic and believes
she must have fallen asleep.
She was unable to move because the
drugs had paralysed her and she could
hear medical staff speaking about her
size and weight. She then felt someone
poking and prodding her abdomen
before there was a shout for more mor-
Ms Bythell said she then fell back
asleep. The operation continued and
was completed successfully.
"The whole incident was terrifying,"
"I was hysterical with panic but com-
pletely unable to do anything about it.
I thought I was in surgery already and
I felt like I was going to die.
"Afterwards I tried to explain to the
staff what happened but felt that I was
being fobbed off with excuses and was
constantly given the wrong informa-
tion---first it was hallucinations, then
it was a faulty machine.
"It was incredibly distressing to find
out that this was all caused by some-
body not checking the machine actually
had gas in it."
She was off work for four months
after the operation in September 2010
and has been diagnosed with post-
traumatic stress disorder, said her legal
team from Irwin Mitchell solicitors.
Dr Ian Stanley, Interim Executive
Medical Director at East Lancashire
Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We are
very sorry for the distress experienced
by Ms Bythell.
"We are pleased that a settlement
has now been agreed and procedures
have been put in place to reduce the
chance of this happening again." (BBC)
Sensors to prevent pain for amputees
"A large number of lower limb
amputees may suffer from nerve
damage and they have reduced
skin sensation. That means they
don t feel the pain or the tissue
injury as effectively as we do. And
it may be too late, because once
that soft tissue is compromised
it could lead to infection and
could be really serious."
Joe McCarthy, who does pros-
thetic research and development
at Blatchford, hopes in time the
sensors will mean those wearing
artificial limbs will not have to
worry about keeping a good fit.
"The next stage will be to
develop some sort of system to
adjust the fit of the socket so
we ll have a system that can react
as the person s wearing the leg
saying, OK, you re a little bit far
into this socket, and it can literally
pump up some pads or adjust the
fit in some way so the person
doesn t have to go to the centre."
The researchers say the sensors
may be available to NHS patients
in as little as three years. Dr Jiang
believes this technology may have
many more uses which could pre-
vent pain, infections and even
"This is a platform technology
and we envisage it could be appli-
cable in many other healthcare
sectors such as smart shoe insoles
for people with diabetes, or
wheelchairs or mattresses---wher-
ever the body rubs." (BBC)
Woman 'terrified' waking
up at point of surgery
The sensor is thin and flexible like a small golden postage stamp. It is
taped to a liner---essentially a cushioned sock---which is then placed in
the socket connecting the stump and the artificial limb. BBC PHOTO
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