Hospitals Succeed in Eliminating Deadly Bedsores

Nurses dramatically cut bedsore occurrence by detecting damage developing under patients’ skin early enough to intervene and reverse the damage. This marks a breakthrough in prevention of the chronic condition costing the UK £2.1bn annually, which claimed the life of Superman actor Christopher Reeve.

Bruin Biometrics (“BBI LLC”), which manufactures the early detection technology known as the SEM Scanner, enlisted 13 hospitals (including 10 NHS England Trusts) to participate in a novel Pressure Ulcer Prevention Program (PURP) incorporating SEM Scanner into existing care pathways for pressure ulcer prevention.

The findings from over 1200 patients scanned are the most comprehensive real-world evidence that this early detection technology enables nurses to prevent bedsores before they break through the skin, a conclusion that upends the prevailing view that bedsores cannot be diagnosed and treated until they have caused visible and irreversible damage to the skin’s surface.

“These data challenge existing practice that looks for visual changes to skin to initiate bedsore intervention,” BBI CEO Martin Burns said. “Scientific findings show that by the time damage is visible, it is far too late. Early detection changed the prognosis for millions of cancer survivors. A proactive approach to ‘Act Before Red’ is consistently doing the same for bedsores, on a large scale, across independent sites.”

“We reduced pressure ulcers in the ward concerned to zero during our Scanner trial – an achievement that, if we rolled out across our hospital, we estimate could save our hospital nearly £600,000 and release 1,420 hours of nurse productivity annually,” said Glenn Smith, a tissue viability and nutrition senior clinical nurse specialist/patient safety lead at St. Mary’s Hospital, part of the NHS Trust on the Isle of Wight, which has a large elderly population at risk for bedsores due to immobility.

“In our pilot program, which included over 200 patients, we reduced bedsore incidence by 90%,” said Rose Raizman, nurse practitioner, enterostomal therapist and pressure ulcer prevention at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital in Ontario, Canada. “SEM Scanner allows the clinician to ‘visualise pathology’ below the skin level before it becomes apparent at the surface, and should be used as the standard of care for pressure ulcer prevention.”

“The vast majority of nurses participating in our Scanner program said the device provided valuable clinical information,” added Parker Moss, chief technology and transformation officer at Virgin Care, which experienced a 95 percent drop in the bedsore rate during an evaluation of the device at Farnham Community Hospital in Surrey, where it provides services to the NHS.

SEM Scanner is a wireless non-invasive handheld device that assesses sub-epidermal moisture, or SEM, an indicator of early-stage damage beneath the skin surface as much as 10 days earlier than visual inspection by nurses.

SEM Scanner was conceived by Barbara Bates-Jensen, a wound care expert and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and adapted from seismology technology used on NASA’s Mars landing craft to interrogate beneath the planet’s surface.  Professor Bates-Jensen, Dr. Majid Sarrafzadeh, and Dr. William J. Kaiser, co-director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute and a former engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, partnered with BBI to adapt the space technology into the SEM Scanner.

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are chronic wounds to the skin and tissue that often develop in patients who are immobile.

Bedsores commonly lead to infection and death. In fact, bedsores kill more people annually than any form of cancer except lung cancer. There are nearly 500,000 bedsore cases annually in the UK.

Until now, diagnosis has relied on visual inspection by nurses, which is subjective and which can only identify bedsores once visible damage to the skin has already begun. With early-detection, experts believe that over 80% of early-stage pressure ulcers can be prevented.

“We’ve borrowed NASA’s concept of ‘Seeing the Unseen’ to develop the first clinically-proven method for detecting unseen bedsores and alerting healthcare practitioners in real time when they begin to form under the skin,” said Rachael Lester, BBI VP of Product. “With early detection, clinicians can initiate treatment before chronic damage develops. More and more clinicians are using the SEM Scanner and finding that they can overcome avoidable PUs, proving that ZERO is no longer Mission: Impossible.”  

Real-world evaluation data presented by St. Mary’s Hospital (Improved Patient Safety with Use of the SEM Scanner) and Virgin Care (Chasing Zero. Results from a New Pressure Ulcer Prevention Bundle) at the Wounds UK annual conference November 14-16 in Harrogate and are now being released publicly for the first time.

About Bedsores
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are a common medical problem that can lead to pain, disfigurement, infection and death. Pressure ulcers are an area of localized damage to the skin and underlying tissue – usually around an area of bony prominence, such as the sacrum, coccyx, heels, and hips – that results from pressure involving shear and/or friction. Across Europe and the United States, it is estimated that 18%-25% of patients in both acute care and long-term care settings suffer from pressure ulcers, disproportionately impacting the elderly and patients with limited mobility. There are some 2.5 million pressure ulcer cases annually in the European Union, and nearly 500,000 in the United Kingdom, which spends £2.1bn, or 4% of the NHS budget, on the condition. In the U.S., some 2.5 million Americans develop pressure ulcers annually in acute care facilities, and 60,000 Americans die annually from pressure ulcer complications such as cancer, sepsis, cellulitis, and MRSA.

About BBI  
Bruin Biometrics LLC, a pioneer in biometric-sensor based medical devices, is committed to the development of point-of-care diagnostic solutions for early detection and monitoring of chronic, preventable conditions. The company’s first product is the SEM Scanner, a hand-held non-invasive device that assesses sub-epidermal moisture, a biomarker which has been found to detect early-stage pressure ulcers as much as 10 days earlier than visual observation. Pressure ulcers affect approximately 25% of acute care hospital and long-term care patients – typically the elderly and immobile. SEM Scanner is CE Mark approved and is currently in full commercial launch in the EU and Canada. SEM Scanner is not currently for sale in the United States.

BBI is also developing OrthoSonos, a non-invasive device for real-time orthopaedic joint monitoring and assessment of prosthetic implant failure; and P02M, the first device for monitoring tissue oxygenation at a specific location in real time. P02M is initially being tested for continual monitoring of tissue and vascular viability in the feet of diabetics. Diabetes can cause peripheral artery disease and peripheral neuropathy, putting patients at risk for foot ulcers.

BBI is based in Los Angeles and maintains a European office in Manchester, UK.

For additional information, visit Follow BBI on Twitter at