Fewer points of contact thanks to special textile structure
"We evaluated marketable synthetic fibers," explains Derler, "and developed a material with a kind of dot matrix surface." This special textile structure has two advantages: firstly, it produces fewer points of contact and less surface contact with the skin, and secondly, the microscopic spaces between the dots can absorb moisture. What followed was a highly exciting Ping-Pong process between the Empa test labs and the R & D department of Schoeller in Sevelen, Canton St. Gallen. The industrial partner optimized its weaving techniques, and Siegfried Derler’s team tested the new samples on its sophisticated skin models.
By the end of 2009 they were ready: The laboratory results were good enough for the fabric to be tested in hospital beds at the SPC in Nottwil. Twenty paraplegics at the end of their first rehabilitation period offered to act as a test group. Although their skin had already changed as a result of their disability, it had not yet suffered the effects of years of inactivity.
Better circulation and greater comfort
Over a period of eighteen months, experts at Empa and the medical staff in Nottwil regularly checked the patients’ blood circulation as well as the redness, elasticity and moisture levels of the affected parts of the skin. The subjective wellbeing of the subjects was recorded in a questionnaire.
And the results were more than satisfactory: The patients sweated less, their blood circulation improved, and they felt significantly more comfortable than in conventional sheets. "We have shown that our method of bedsore prevention using textiles is effective," says Hans-Jürgen Hübner, CEO of Schoeller Medical. He is currently subjecting the new sheet to tough tests at Schoeller in Sevelen in order to show how it behaves after repeated use and cleaning.
Next spring Schoeller Medical hopes to launch its innovation on a commercial basis. "We are currently building up an international distribution system," says Hans-Jürgen Hübner. He already has one potential customer in the Swiss Paraplegic Centre, which, thanks to the initial positive results, is interested in using the new sheets on a wider basis. "What’s more," says Anke Scheel, "some of our patients would be interested in using the sheets at home.”
Author: Jost Dubacher