Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI and Wellman International enter research partnership to prevent bedsores

11 October 2017

RCSI and Wellman International have today announced a new research collaboration that aims to reduce the number of severe pressure ulcers occurring in vulnerable older persons.

The College and Wellman will develop a novel bedding material to prevent pressure ulcers by controlling moisture levels on the skin’s surface and evenly redistributing pressure whilst an individual is seated or lying in bed.

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, are common devastating wounds, extending from deep in the bone and muscle layers through to the skin, occurring most often in older persons with limited mobility. They are smelly, highly painful and very prone to infection, and in some cases, pressure ulcer complications can result in death. Pressure ulcers are often a trigger for admission into hospital or long stay facilities. Recent estimates suggest that the management of wounds, including pressure ulcers, creates a significant financial burden, equating to 6 per cent of the total Irish public health expenditure.

Pressure ulcers are caused by prolonged unrelieved pressure, shear and friction forces. Excessive moisture on the skin surface contributes to an increase of pressure ulceration because the skin is weakened in the presence of moisture.

The research partnership announced today brings together the clinical research and patient care expertise of RCSI and specialised materials development experience of Wellman to generate new knowledge which will lead to the development of a mattress topper, made a highly specialised polyester fibre ‘PU-Pro’ with proven Moisture Vapour Transmission (MVT) functionality. The aim of the research collaboration is to demonstrate the ability of the new product’s surface to control the microclimate at the skin/surface interface and to facilitate pressure redistribution. The evaluation results of the mattress properties will lead to a further redesign and enhancement of the product prior to market launch.

Wellman, located in Co. Meath, is the largest European producer of polyester staple fibre, exporting predominantly to mainland Europe. Traditionally a domestic bedding and home furnishing manufacturer, Wellman have commissioned a strategic R&D programme to deliver Higher Valued Added products to the market, including the specialist material that is being developed in conjunction with RCSI.

The research team at RCSI is led by Professor Zena Moore, Head of the RCSI School of Nursing & Midwifery and Dr Declan Patton, Director of Nursing & Midwifery Research. “At RCSI, we focus on harnessing the expertise of industry, academia and the clinical community to improve healthcare outcomes for patients in Ireland and beyond. Through this collaboration, we hope to prevent pressure ulcers, which represent one of the toughest medical challenges and public health issues in Ireland and worldwide,” said Prof. Moore.

“Preventing the development of pressure ulcers will improve the quality of life for older people and will enable the individual remain in their own home for longer, thereby enhancing their independence, contribution and longevity within the community setting," Prof. Moore concluded.

Donal Breen, CEO Wellman International said: “We are very excited about the opportunity to collaborate with RCSI on a project to address a long-standing medical challenge. We feel confident that we will develop a novel solution utilising the unique fibre technology of Wellman and the clinical reach and research expertise of RCSI.”

Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI, Prof. Ray Stallings, welcomed the announcement saying: “RCSI is delighted to announce this collaboration between Prof. Zena Moore’s team and Wellman International. RCSI is committed to working with Irish based companies to improve human health and this partnership with Wellman International reinforces our focus on translating research for the benefit of patients and healthcare systems.”

Pictured (L-R): Professor Zena Moore, Head of the RCSI School of Nursing & Midwifery and Celene Dolan, Marketing & Product Manager at Wellman International. 

Pictured (L-R): Professor Zena Moore, Head of the RCSI School of Nursing & Midwifery and Celene Dolan, Marketing & Product Manager at Wellman International. 

Standard pressure redistribution surfaces currently used within health care in Ireland today include Visco-elastic and polyurethane foams as their main components. Disadvantages to these surfaces include heat retention and after repeatedly stretching; foam cell structures will break changing the behaviour of the foam product. This new 100% PU-Pro material being developed by Wellman and RCSI will avoid these disadvantages.

This Research is funded under and Enterprise Ireland Feasibility Scheme and co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland’s European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes 2014-2020.

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter.

Wellman International is one of the largest manufacturing companies in the North East of Ireland, employing circa 265 people. With a capacity of 88,000 tonnes, Wellman is the largest European producer of polyester staple fibre, exporting predominantly to mainland Europe, with the Irish market representing approximately 3% of sales. The markets traditionally served by Wellman were domestic bedding and home furnishings, which have become increasingly commoditised in recent years due to competition from the Far East. To address this challenge, Wellman have commissioned a strategic R&D programme to deliver HVA (Higher Valued Added) products to the market.