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Innovative mechanical system makes it easy to turn bedridden patients

2021-02-02 14:50:02
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The metal clamp that held the two plates. Credit: Alain Herzog

It takes about five or six people and considerable effort to turn an intubated patient into a hospital bed. In patients who are in an artificial coma, this procedure is performed at least twice a day to improve the patient's breathing and prevent bedsores. And with intensive care units filling up as a result of the pandemic, the problem is getting worse. A team of scientific assistants and a student, led by Prof. Charles Baur of EPFL & # 39; s Instant-Lab in Neuchâtel, has developed a simple system that allows only three people to turn a patient with little effort. It was tested by doctors and nurses at the La Source Clinic simulated hospital in Lausanne and the intensive care unit at Geneva University Hospital (HUG), and everyone involved was enthusiastic about the new device. It has been patented and is now ready for large-scale production.

Rotate patients gently without straining medical personnel

Employees are currently turning patients over by first placing a clean sheet on the patient so that the sheets can be changed at the same time, then gently rolling the patient over with the strength of their arms. With the Instant-Lab System, the top and bottom sheets are bound together around the patient in four places – at each shoulder and at each knee – using a sort of metal clamp. With these clamps, the two sheets of fabric are rolled around a small rod that fits into a cavity to secure the sheets. The result is that the patient is held firmly between the two sheets. The metal clips also include holes for securing cables; cables are inserted into holes on one side of the patient's body and attached to a patient lift – the machine typically used in hospitals to transfer patients. The patient lift gently lifts the sheets and with it one side of the patient, so that the patient lies laterally. The patient is then gently placed on his back or stomach, depending on whether he was initially in the prone or supine position. Very little effort is required from the hospital staff during this procedure.

Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Focusing on the right turning technique

The existing procedure for turning patients over can be tricky, so staff teams work together for as long as possible so they learn to coordinate smoothly and minimize risks. The procedure also involves a significant amount of lifting, which can often lead to fatigue, muscle pain and injury to staff. But with the Instant-Lab System, only three nurses or assistants are needed and don't have to lift the full weight of a patient. "The system is very gentle and allows caregivers to fully concentrate on performing the right turning technique," said Dominique Truchot-Cardot, the physician in charge of SILAB, the innovation unit of the La Source simulated hospital. Two staff prepare the metal clamps and ensure that the patient, their tubing, and any other medical cables are correctly positioned. The third person operates the patient lift, manually or electronically, so that the patient is gradually turned over.

A small, highly motivated project team

The research project started in October alongside the regular Instant-Lab activities. The goal was to rapidly develop a fully operational system in the midst of the pandemic. The five people on the project team, led by Baur, are all experts in microengineering and have worked extremely hard – largely in their spare time – to refine their device, called Decubitus. It is designed to fit into existing hospital procedures and requires no special training. During the first tests on dummies in December at La Source's simulated hospital, doctors and nurses agreed that the system was easy to use and would be very useful in hospitals. The team received the same feedback during the tests conducted more recently at HUG.

Ready for mass production

Decubitus is patented by EPFL's Technology Transfer Office (TTO) and the parts are ready to be manufactured on a large scale. Due to the simple shape of the parts, they can be produced at a lower cost. The first Décubitus prototypes were funded by Enable, an EPFL program designed to facilitate technology transfer to the market. The project team now needs funding for the production phase. “Our system has proven to be very popular with the hospital staff who have tested it, and we want to act quickly,” says Baur. "We hope it can soon become part of hospital routines and ease the burden on caregivers." Setting up a startup and raising funds would take too long, but the project team made a commitment when they came up with the idea of ​​getting it all done. They are therefore redoubling their efforts to find manufacturers to partner with and to complete all prior administrative requirements as quickly as possible.


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Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

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Innovative mechanical system makes it easy to turn bedridden patients (2021, Feb 2)
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