Pressure ulcers are caused by sustained pressure against the skin resulting in impaired blood flow and damage to surrounding tissue. They are commonly found in bedridden patients, and the current protocol for prevention is to turn the patient every two hours. In hospitals in Guatemala City, nurses are understaffed and thus, patients are turned infrequently. Project Alivio’s goal is to design a device that reduces instances of pressure ulcers in the San Juan de Dios hospital. To ensure the device is built to consumer-driven needs, students are conducting research on user requirements and design specifications. A comprehensive list is being created based on the insights from pressure ulcer experts such as Dr. VanEpps, a doctor at the University of Michigan hospital, and Andy Reyes, a medical student resident at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala City. Students have also begun generating device concepts based on the main factors that contribute to pressure ulcers: high pressure, shear forces, and moisture. Concepts were developed using functional decomposition: concepts addressing each factor separately were created, and now, students are combining these ideas to create concepts that satisfy the user requirements and will reduce instances of pressure ulcers.


Project Alivio resulted from M-HEAL’s first SANA trip to Antigua, Guatemala in 2015. Travelers observed clinics and interviewed doctors and patients, and using this data, they compiled a list of needs statements. Project Alivio then delved into these needs statements, prioritizing and researching them further. In the following year, the team formed a partnership with medical students from La Universidad de San Carlos (USAC) in Guatemala. However, they determined that the information collected in the previous trip was inadequate and decided to conduct another needs assessment trip. This time, they collected information on three predetermined focus areas: respiratory health, gastrointestinal diseases, and pressure ulcers. After spending a week in Antigua with various clinics gathering data,the U-M and USAC students jointly decided to pursue prevention of pressure ulcers in hospital environments. 


Immobile patients in hospitals in Guatemala are at an increased risk of developing pressure ulcers due to the humid environment within the hospitals and infrequent turning by busy nurses. Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue that are caused by prolonged pressure on bony prominences of skin. Currently, hospitals in Guatemala have air and gel mattresses intended to disperse pressure and thus prevent bed sores. However, even with these mattresses, patients who aren’t turned develop preliminary pressure ulcers in six hours. Project Alivio ’s goal is to improve upon the current prevention devices present in hospitals by designing a mattress overlay.  


Project Leads

Reid bailey | reidba@umich.edu

Saumya Gupta | saugupta@umich.edu

Kristine Wang | kriwang@umich.edu