Levitex postural support image

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has teamed up with postural support specialist Levitex to help COVID-19 hospital-based patients breathe and sleep more easily.

UCLan approached Dr Ambreen Chohan and the MedTech Innovation Group to help the Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) link up with a specialist healthcare company to develop a kit to help improve oxygen levels in patients that have contracted the virus.

Following previous successful research projects with the company, the collaboration has seen Posture Care, a company that works closely with patients suffering from debilitating conditions, create a unique ‘Proning System’. These are specially shaped cushions that support patients in a side-lying or prone (lying on their stomach) position.

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The shape of each cushion provides support for a patient’s hips, chest and head in the prone position, but also the head, back, knees and ankles in a side-lying position. The pressure-relieving properties of the cushions help to make the position more tolerable for patients.

Dr Chohan, a Research Fellow in Biomechanics at UCLan, said: “We were approached by Dr Shondipon Laha, a Consultant at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and we were more than happy to help with such a vital health project to help patients who are struggling to fight the effects of Covid-19.

“Having previously researched a range of Posture Care and Levitex products, we contacted the team and now five of the Proning Systems they have developed are in use across the RPH’s Intensive Care Unit and respiratory wards and we are working together to research the impact it has on patients with Covid-19.”

All cushions use a special polyurethane foam created by Posture Care’s sister company, Levitex, which have pressure-relieving properties.

During the first wave of the pandemic, Levitex donated 200 of its pressure-relieving pillows across North West and additional hospitals, including RPH, to help staff put patients into prone position more easily.

Recognising the benefits of prone positioning, Dr Laha approached UCLan to look for a more sophisticated solution.

He said: “We approached UCLan to help us find a company that could create a solution and that’s when we were introduced to the team at Posture Care. With the support of one of our physiotherapists, Simon Brady, a prototype Prone System was developed and informal feedback from initial testing on critical care patients showed that it helped significantly.

“We’ve seen clear evidence of success in using proning – a technique that is more commonly used for patients with pneumonia and on ventilators – in the fight against Covid-19.

“However, ICUs are facing a huge problem with helping patients that are not sedated to lie on their front for sustained periods of time as they simply can’t tolerate it. Many patients struggling to breathe are also fatigued, uncomfortable, scared and some are overweight or elderly, making it incredibly challenging for staff to re-position them throughout the day.”

Dr Laha explained that, in April 2020, Levitex’s medical director Dr Ilan Lieberman returned to the ICU and saw how the Levitex pillows could help ventilated patients remain in the prone position for extended periods of time.

“That’s what led to us donating so many pillows across the region, including to the team at RPH, and creating an online self proning guide which has already been used by thousands of people,” Dr Lieberman explained.

“Our new Proning System takes that collaboration to the next level, helping patients tolerate the therapy of prone position for even longer periods and we are already in discussions with several NHS Trusts about a wider rollout.

“We’ve seen its success already and we hope this will help reduce the burden on clinical staff and lead to better patient outcomes, ultimately offering a life-saving solution for so many people in the fight against this terrible virus.”

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