Research: Pediatric Support Surfaces Must Be Adjustable & Adaptable

Authors of a new study on pediatric patients say adjustability and adaptability for pediatric support surfaces are critical to preventing pressure-related injuries.

The study was carried out by Amit Gefen, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering at Tel Aviv University; Kara Kopplin, senior director of efficacy research for ROHO Inc.; and Ayelet Levy, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at Tel Aviv University.

An April 28 announcement from ROHO said the research studied mattresses being used by children in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, and found that these children’s medical conditions can put them at greater risk for developing pressure injuries.

For instance, support surfaces need to “be able to respond to frequent movements and changing positions, and also be able to effectively adapt and conform around such things as misplaced tubing or wires, which might contact the body, deform soft tissues and lead to pressure injuries.”

In fact, the medical and monitoring equipment can inadvertently put stress on children’s skin and soft tissues, the authors found: “Medical devices that are often needed for critically ill pediatric and neonatal patients, such as electrodes, wires and donut-shaped headrests, greatly increase the risk of pressure injuries to these delicate patients, especially when used on the back of the head, since their geometry and stiffness can greatly elevate the tissue stresses, further increasing the risk of injury.”

The authors added that air-cell mattresses “provide considerably better protection against pressure injuries” versus traditional support surfaces because air cells “are able to buckle and conform around objects that are stiffer than the pediatric tissues – e.g., wires, tubes, electrodes. This adaptable environment minimized exposure to tissue deformations.”

The research was published in the March 2015 issue of Advances in Wound Care, and in the 2016 Journal of Tissue Viability.

The researchers’ work was partially funded by a 2014 grant from the New England Pediatric Device Consortium (NEPDC).

Kopplin said of the study, “There was very little previous research on how to prevent tissue injury in newborns, especially those in intensive care. We were honored to receive the NEPDC grant and contribute to the understanding of how these precious patients can be better protected in their care environments.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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