Electric underwear might sound like a provocative burlesque act, but a Canadian team of researchers have created a pair of pants that deliver a mild electrical current to the wearer’s backside every 10 minutes in order to prevent bedsores.
For the bedridden or wheelchair-bound, bedsores can be a serious health problem and a literal pain in the arse. These pressure ulcers arise when there is a lack of oxygen and movement stimulating compressed areas of the body — often the backs of the legs or the bottom. This is caused when soft tissue is compressed between a bony prominence and an external surface such as a mattress or wheelchair for a long time. The soft tissue starts to break down when it can’t get oxygenated blood and nutrients, causing an ulcer. These can deteriorate into deep pressure ulcers which go through the muscle tissue through to the bone. For some people they can be a minor inconvenience, but for other people they can lead to life-threatening complications such as blood poisoning or gangrene.
The newly developed Smart-e-Pants underwear work to simulate the movement and blood flow artificially. They look like a regular pair of briefs but feature embedded electrodes to deliver a painless current for 10 seconds every 10 minutes. This helps to replicate the fidgeting movements that able-bodied people make to keep blood circulating and avoid that numb-bum feeling that tends to signal that your meeting has been going on for too long.
Vivian Mushahwar, spinal cord injury expert and team leader at Alberta Health Solutions, which funded the project, said: “If you stimulate the muscles that experience pressure such as those that we sit on, you can restore some of the subconscious postural adjustments and prevent pressure ulcers.”
The Smart-e-Pants have been piloted successfully and are now being subjected to further tests. The end product is expected to cost a whopping £1,280 (2,000 Canadian dollars) — a lot more expensive than Myla and Agent Provocateur stuff, but worth it for avoiding bedsores, which are surprisingly often fatal.
Written by Olivia Solon
Edited by Nate Lanxon