Before commencing his work as a Doctoral Researcher, Alex studied User Centred Design at Loughborough. His undergraduate degree culminated in a final year project designing a product to help improve the productivity of manufacturing workers in extreme temperatures. This work was influenced by his time spent volunteering in the University’s Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre.

By investigating how novel interventions can increase both skin and soft tissue blood flow, Alex hopes to inform future methods for the prevention and treatment of pressure injuries.

Thesis title: How effective are novel interventions in improving loaded skin blood flow and reducing the magnitude of the body’s hyperaemic response post loading at the posterior heel?

Alex’s research focusses on the development of novel vascular interventions to prevent the development of pressure injuries. Pressure injuries are a significant healthcare problem that are estimated to account for 4% of the NHS’s annual budget. When combined with community healthcare costs, the UK’s annual spend on their prevention and treatment equates to around £2.1 billion. It is estimated that each year in the UK 412,000 people will develop at least one pressure injury, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable due to their ageing skin, and a reduction in blood supply. This, combined with a higher likelihood of impaired mobility, leaves the elderly with a risk of mortality due to pressure injuries up to five times higher than any risk experienced by younger patients.

Pressure injuries occur when soft tissues (the skin and muscles), are compressed between a bony prominence (the heel bone) and a support surface (a hospital bed). While on the macroscopic level, compression of the soft tissue is observed, on the microscopic level cells are experiencing the same compression. Prolonged cell deformation is known to reduce the structural integrity of the cell cytoskeleton, leading to cascade of cell death, inflammation, oedema, oxidative stress, and large-scale tissue death, factors that are like exacerbated by inadequate blood flow and oxygen delivery.

Supervisors: Dr Alex Lloyd, Dr Jo Barnes, Dr Mike Fray.