People who use wheelchairs are prone to getting pressure sores, which are painful, may cause serious infections, impair quality of life for children and their families and are expensive to the health-care system.
Children living with cerebral palsy (CP) are especially at risk for pressure sores, since their metabolic rates are high because of muscle spasticity, a reduced skin surface area available for sweat evaporation and are in wheelchairs most of the day.
To learn more about how and why wheelchair-bound children with CP are at risk for pressure sores, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has awarded a team of Brock University researchers more than $585,000.
A group of senior scientists from the Department of Kinesiology – led by Prof. Bareket Falk and including Stephen Cheung, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Ergonomics, and Nota Klentrou – will examine a host of factors that make children living with CP particularly vulnerable.
These include: CP-specific temperature regulation challenges, wheelchair-seat interfaces and seat technologies, and appropriate care protocols.
“By reducing the risk of pressure sores, families impacted by CP will be better able to manage the care of their children, lessen the adverse effects of the disability and attain a vastly improved quality of life for the children and their families,” says Falk.
The group expects that the research results will lead to new and innovative technologies such as body-seat interface application, and will also inform guidelines for health-care providers, physiotherapists, coaches, teachers and parents aimed at reducing the risk of pressure sores in children with CP and other wheelchair-bound populations.
The researchers are working with a couple of community partners. Niagara Prosthetics & Orthotics (NPO), which designs, fabricates, and provides wheelchairs and custom seating to residents of the Niagara Region, including children with CP, create all the research prototypes under the direction owner Alan Rigby.
The Niagara Children’s Centre (NCC), an out-patient school/rehabilitation facility for over 300 children with CP at various function levels, will provide the participant pool for the study. NCC staff will also play a major role in the design, evaluation and implementation of new care protocols.