Devices & Diagnostics

Ohio State University nurse working to develop wound-care device

Ohio State University is helping develop a portable device that allows complete access to a patient’s lower extremities. Such a device could help nurses who treat legs that have ballooned to the size of a person’s trunk.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When nurse Patsy Martinsek cares for a patient with a wound in a hard-to-reach spot on the back of his or her leg, she has to be creative.

Sometimes she uses a pillow and blanket to prop up the patient’s leg. Other times, she rests the patient’s foot on her body.

Neither approach is ideal.

“I do a lot of leg wounds, and I have no way of positioning the leg where I can get to it,” said Martinsek, a certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse at Ohio State University Hospital East. “We need something to keep that leg stabilized and allow you to do what you need to do in order to get healing initiated.”

Martinsek has come up with a solution: A portable device that allows complete access to a patient’s lower extremity that is now being developed with the help of Ohio State University. She said such a device would be especially helpful when a nurse must treat a leg that has ballooned to the size of a person’s trunk. Most of the time, she noted, a nurse works alone.

In September 2006, Martinsek brought the idea to Jean Schelhorn and Erin Bender of OSU’s Technology Licensing & Commercialization arm, known as TLC. Schelhorn, associate vice president for commercialization, said the group gets about 160 invention reports annually. Right now, TLC is responsible for about 30 new licenses per year.

Bender, a licensing associate, said the group spent months researching, reviewing and evaluating Martinsek’s idea, based on her designs. They also worked with Dr. Richard Schlanger, medical director of the wound center at OSU, who offered a surgeon’s perspective on how to make the device functional, Bender said.

Ultimately, they created prototypes that could be used in a home-care setting, a clinical setting and a surgical setting for either lower or upper extremities, Bender said. She noted the device also could be used in a veterinary setting. The team has filed a patent application for the device.

The device could make wound care more efficient for nurses. There may be a health benefit for the nurses, too: Devices designed to help lift patients have been shown to reduce the risk of back pain suffered by nurses.

However, one solution already on the market is the $326 LIFT-A-LIMB lower extremity unit. A separate unit for upper extremities and a handful of related accessories also exist. The company states on its Web site that it has five patents and that the device is used in operating rooms, emergency departments and wound care centers, among others.

Bender declined to compare the OSU invention to that product.