Backboard Pad Designed to Ease Patient Pain

The Turley Backboard Pad can be warmed in a portable blanket warmer.
The Turley Backboard Pad can be warmed in a portable blanket warmer.

At their best, backboards are cold and uncomfortable. At their worst, they can lead to back pain and dangerous pressure sores. A new product aims to solve those problems.

Amy Turley has been a paramedic for a dozen years. But as an EMT student 15 years ago, she remembered how uncomfortable she was when she got to play “patient on a backboard” for her classmates. “After 40 minutes my back was killing me, and it hurt for three days afterwards,” she recalled. “And even as an EMT student I said to myself, ‘Really? This is what we do to people? They’re injured and we put them on a backboard and hurt them even more?’ There’s got to be a better way to do this.”

So she invented the Turley Backboard Pad. It weighs just seven pounds, rolls up for easy storage and is filled with non-leaking gel. Turley said it disperses the patient’s weight, preventing pressure sores. “I want to change the standard of care, and I want anybody who goes on a backboard to get a pad under them,” she said. “We are taught it all through school, pad, pad, pad. But nobody does it, so I wanted something fast and easy and multipurpose.”

Given the recent changes in Medicare laws, she said hospitals and EMS providers should be more invested in preventing pressure sores caused by backboards. In October 2008, according to Turley, Medicare officials said they would no longer pay for injuries caused by treatment for an illness or injury. “If a patient goes into the hospital and lays on that backboard for three hours, which is the average,” she said, “it only takes 20 minutes for a geriatric patient to begin to develop a pressure sore.” Each year, she said, millions of dollars are spent in the United States on pressure sores.

The Turley Backboard Pad measures 10-by-36 inches and fits on any backboard. Turley said it’s rugged and safe for medical use. “Fold it up, roll it up, it’s flexible,” she said. “It’s a solid piece of gel, so it doesn’t ooze, leak or evaporate. It’s also antibacterial and antimicrobial, so if something viral enters a puncture, it won’t grow. There’s also a permanent patch kit for it.”

It can also be heated for trauma or hypothermia patients. “You can throw it on the dash to heat it on the way to a call, you can put it in an IV fluid warmer, you can roll it up in a heating pad, or you can use a blanket warmer,” Turley said. Warming trauma patients is one of the most important keys to keeping them alive, she said, but also one of the most forgotten steps in preventing the so-called EMS Trauma Triad of Death (hypothermia, coagulation, acidosis).

The pad can be kept in a cooler or refrigerator for heat stroke patients. “It covers your core, so you can put one under them and one over them,” Turley said. She also suggested using the cold pad along with a splint for relieving swelling and pain in sprains and fractures.

The pad lists for $275, but bulk discounts are available. The Turley Backboard Pad Company is based in University Place, Wash.

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