Pressure Ulcer Prevention and Detection

Pressure ulcers are a serious health issue for those with mobility impairments such as spinal cord injury, stroke and other neurological damage. It is estimated that 80% of those confined to wheelchairs will develop at least one pressure ulcer, with the prevalence increasing after each occurrence and may lead to additional complications such as infections.  It is estimated that pressure ulcers and related complications cost the Canadian health care system $3.5 billion annually ($11 billion in the U.S.). Research in the pressure ulcer group is focused on basic research in the etiology and early detection and applied research in the development of innovations to detect, prevent and treat pressure ulcers. Surprisingly, the etiology of pressure ulcers is still very poorly understood. Our early research in this area suggests that pressure ulcers may result from mechanical stress and we are continuing to investigate how mechanical forces play a role in the development of these ulcers. We are also investigating methods for detecting the onset of pressure ulcers; if a pressure ulcer can be detected early , early intervention could minimize the resulting damage. In this regard, we are searching for metabolic markers of pressure ulcers. These metabolic markers may then be the key to detecting pressure ulcers at the earliest stage. Finally, over the past several years we have investigated the use of functional electrical stimulation (FES) to prevent the onset of pressure ulcers and have developed the Smart-e-Pants, an undergarment that is fitted with electrodes in areas where pressure ulcers usually develop - areas with bony protrusions such as the buttocks. The electrodes deliver a small electrical impulse that causes the muscles to contract and simulating the 'fidgeting' process.  The Smart-e-pants have completed Phase 1 safety, feasibility, and acceptability studies in home, rehabilitation, continuing, acute and critical care setting in Edmonton and Calgary (Allen Gray Continuing Care Centre, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, and Foothills Medical Centre. These demonstration studies have both led to an end-user based product design and established that the technology is safe, acceptable to both patients and health care practitioners, and feasible for deployment in any clinical setting.  The spin-off company Prev Biotech ( has been created to bring this technology to market. Cost-savings and efficacy studies are now in the planning stages.

Vivian Mushahwar, Ph.D.

An engineer by training (electrical), Dr. Mushahwar obtained her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Utah. Research in the Mushahwar lab focuses on many aspects such as the restoration of standing and walking [...]

Richard Stein, Ph.D.

Dr. Richard Stein received his DPhil from the University of Oxford. Dr. Stein joined the Department of Physiology at the University of Alberta in 1968 and during his 40-plus year career, Dr. Stein has spearheaded [...]

Chester Ho, MD

Dr. Chester Ho is an associate professor for the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary and the Division Head, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, for the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary and Alberta Health [...]

Ming Chan, M.D., FRCPC

Dr. Chan completed his MD at the Glasgow University, Scotland, did a research fellowship at Tuts University, Boston MA, and his FRCPC at the University of Alberta.  Dr. Chan’s research focuses on neuromuscular disease and the [...]

Walied Moussa, Ph.D.

Dr. Moussa obtained his Ph.D from the Carlton University.  Dr. Moussa research interests are related to advanced modeling techniques for the study material properties and behaviors.   In collaboration with the Elias group, the Moussa lab [...]

Martin Ferguson-Pell, Ph.D.

Martin Ferguson-Pell, PhD has been the Dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta since 2007. After graduating with a PhD in biomedical engineering, Ferguson-Pell was appointed lecturer at the University [...]

Sean Dukelow, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC

Dr. Dukelow is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Calgary and is a member of the Calgary Stroke Program.  Prior to arriving in Calgary in 2008, [...]