Background: Pressure ulcers (PUs) at the buttocks and heels are a common complication of chronic stay in bed. Open PUs secret exudates containing serum fluid, neutrophils and proteins. The wound bed needs to be mildly moist for adequate healing, hence exudates have a role in tissue repair, however, in an infected wound exudates may become toxic and infectious to adjacent, non-wounded tissues. Wound exudates should therefore be absorbed or retained to an adequate extent to support healing. Gelling fiber therapeutic dressings are designed for these purposes but there are no laboratory tests or studies to assess their retention efficacy.
Methods & Results: We design, develop and produce organ phantoms – of the buttocks and heels – to test products for exudate management in PUs. We employ anatomical computerized three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions and produce the physical mockups by combining 3D printing of skeletal components and silicone molding for soft tissues. We carve ‘cavity wounds’, and embed hierarchal tubing connected to a flow pump in the simulated wound beds which can deliver synthetic exudate replica. We further include an absorbing layer to measure exudate-like fluids not retained in the dressing, and control the temperature using heating elements/lamps.
Conclusions: The above approach paves the way for standardized protocols guiding rigorous, quantitative laboratory tests of gelling fiber dressing and complementary technologies. Expected outcomes include products rating, support in products improvement, educational implementation in demonstrating dressing`s role and modes of action, and a standard platform for development of new dressing and wound filler material technologies.