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Muscle Atrophy Prevention

<< 2015 Projects

Preventing Disuse Muscle Atrophy in Bedridden Children

Need: A way to prevent muscle atrophy in children under long-term hospital stay to preserve walking capabilities and maintain patient self-efficacy and well-being.



Disuse muscle atrophy, the decay and loss of muscle due to inactivity, can lead to a 10% decrease in mean muscle fiber cross sectional area within four days of limb immobilization. This poses a significant problem for hospitalized, bedridden children as it impedes their ability to recover and return to normal life. Current muscle atrophy prevention methods can be expensive and inefficient; for example, nurses commonly flip over and move their patients, but this does little to prevent strength decay.

For our project, we designed a method to prevent muscle atrophy in bedridden children, with the main objectives of preserving walking capabilities and promoting self-efficacy. To achieve our first goal, we decided to build a mechanical leg-rowing machine that could be transported and used easily. Similar in concept to a “leg press on wheels”, our device is meant to be placed right on a patient’s bed for use. To accomplish our second goal, we added a sticker dispenser to help motivate users and track their progress. Additionally, patients can use the leg-rowing machine without outside aid, thus giving them a degree of independence from nurses.

Because prototyping is still in progress, the effectiveness of our device is yet to be determined. However, we are optimistic as recent studies have shown that early exercise is beneficial to hospitalized patients, even those under critical care. While the rowing machine worked as expected, moving forward, we hope to add more complex systems to our rowing machines, including electromagnetic resistance and data tracking. Such designs would help increase the user’s ease-of-use and feedback. 

(Left to right) Benson Kung, Kenzie Johnson, and Ben Ulrich worked a prevention method for muscle atrophy in bedridden children during recovery. They demostrated a device that promotes both the well-being and compliance of hospitalized children.

Click here to see the group's poster.