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A Better Way to Move ICU Patients

May 30, 2008

Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering students Erica Jantho, Hanlin Wan and Swarnali Sengupta test their team's ICU MOVER, a mobility aid designed to safely ambulate critical care patients. Photo: Will Kirk/HIPS
Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering students Erica Jantho, Hanlin Wan and Swarnali Sengupta test their team's ICU MOVER, a mobility aid designed to safely ambulate critical care patients. Photo: Will Kirk/HIPS

Johns Hopkins undergraduates have designed and built a device to enable critically ill intensive care unit patients to leave their beds and walk while remaining tethered to essential life-support equipment. The invention allows doctors to better understand whether carefully supervised rehabilitation, as opposed to continuous sedation and bed rest, can improve the recovery of intensive care patients.

Some clinicians believe that allowing ICU patients to get out of bed and walk could avert some of the muscle weakness, bedsores and depression that typically develop when these patients are kept heavily sedated and confined to bed. Because such patients usually must remain connected to an artificial breathing machine, heart monitors and intravenous lines with essential medications, a simple walk down the hall can require four staff members to accompany the patient.

Students in the BME Design Teams course produced a device called the ICU MOVER Aid. This device has two components: a novel mobility aid that combines the rehabilitative features of a walker and the safety features of a wheelchair, and a separate wheeled tower to which important life-support equipment can be attached.