New weapon in battle on bed sores

Published: May 9, 2007  |  Source: lfpress.ca
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Paralysed from a spinal cord injury, Peter Jones tried to cope with excruciating pressure sores by treating himself with vitamins.

What he and his wife, Crystal, didn’t know until he joined a London research project was the vitamins he was taking were making his sores, or ulcers, worse.

“It was pretty scary because the ulcers can kill you. If not treated property, they just keep getting bigger and bigger and it can get to the point you can see the bone,” Crystal Jones said .

Surveys have found at least one-third of people who have suffered spinal cord injuries have pressure sores.

It was a bed sore that became infected that killed Christopher Reeve, the Hollywood actor left a quadriplegic after a horse-riding accident.

The Joneses say they’re lucky to have found a research program led by Pamela Houghton, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario’s school of Physical Therapy.

Houghton is investigating use of electrical stimulation therapy, or EST, to treat pressure wounds, which include bedsores and skin ulcers.

But patients also are investigated to see what’s contributing to their skin breaking down. Often other problems — such as poor nutrition — are a factor, Houghton said.

Although the research has another year to run, early results are positive, Houghton said.

In the case of Jones, the number of ulcers on his body has dropped to two from seven and those remaining are 60 per cent healed.

He started seeing a difference within the first few days of treatment, Crystal Jones said.

Houghton said the researchers have found it’s critical for people to seek early treatment for bedsores and not leave them for weeks.

Of 52 people screened for the project, 20 had to be referred for surgery because the sores were too far advanced.

“We are trying to get people to think sooner rather than later to get help,” Houghton said.

Surgery takes muscle and skin from the hip and rotates it onto the buttock area. It requires weeks of hospitalization, Houghton said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

People with spinal cord injuries interested in taking part in the research into electrical stimulation therapy to treat pressure wounds can call 519-661-2111, ext. 85552.

By JOHN MINER, SUN MEDIA