Patients who are stationary endure prolonged soft tissue distortions and deformations at contact areas between their body and the support surface, which may lead to the onset of pressure ulcers (PUs) over time. A novel technology for patient positioning employs innovation in materials science, specifically viscoelastic materials with shape memory properties that compose the Z-Flo™ head positioner (Mölnlycke Health Care, Gothenburg, Sweden). Head positioners are generally known to reduce the occurrence of PUs in scalp tissues and the ears, but quantitative assessments of their biomechanical efficacy are missing in the literature. To determine potential differences in mechanical loads formed in the soft tissues of the back of the head while in contact with 2 head positioner types, Z-Flo vs flat medical foam, we developed 2 comparable finite element model configurations, both including the same 3-dimensional adult head. For both model variants, stresses in skin and fat peaked at the occiput. The skin at the back of the resting head is subjected to greater stress values with respect to fat; however, the Z-Flo positioner reduced the exposure of both skin and fat tissues to elevated stresses considerably (by a factor of 3) compared to the medical foam support. We found the Z-Flo device effective in reducing tissue loads at the surface of the head as well as internally in scalp tissues, with a particular strength in reducing internal tissue shear. The Z-Flo device achieves this protective quality through highly effective immersion and envelopment of the back of the head, generated in the process of manual moulding of the device in preparation for use. Additional protection is achieved through the viscoelastic response of the filling material of this positioner, which relaxes promptly and considerably under the weight of the head (by more than 2-fold within approximately 1 s) as opposed to the elastic recoil of the foam that pushes back on scalp tissues.
- deep tissue injury
- finite element modelling
- soft tissues
- support surfaces
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes