3D-printed wheelchair cushions show promise for alleviating pressure injuries

Figure1: 3D printed custom cushion

A research collaboration at Metro North Health’s Herston Biofabrication Institute shows promising results for preventing pressure injuries.

Pressure injuries occur when different forces are applied to the surface of the skin. They can take a long time to heal and have adverse effects on a person’s rehabilitation, mobility and quality of life. People with limited mobility can be more susceptible to developing pressure injuries.

The 3D-printed foam cushions are tailored to people who use wheelchairs and their individual needs. Through the design shown in Figure 1, they show significant promise for preventing pressure injuries.

Laboratory testing has shown excellent results in terms of durability and environmental performance. The cushions are cost effective to produce, which also enables access to a reliable source of replacements or spare cushions where needed.

One challenge remains before testing can be conducted in a clinical setting. With 3D printed gyroid foam being more flammable than traditional cushion materials, researchers will resolve this issue before user testing begins and the technology is rolled out at Metro North Health’s Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service.

This research collaboration, supported by the NIISQ Agency, aims to reduce risk of injury and improve quality of life for people who use wheelchairs through a solution entirely customised to their individual needs.

Figure 2: Schematic illustration

Last updated: February 2024