Former burns patient helps produce unique healing device

An older man lays in a hospital bed and a male health professional stands beside him.
State Adult Burns Unit patient William Allen having his arm treated by Clinical Lead Senior Physiotherapist Assoc Prof Dale Edgar.
December 19, 2019

Collaboration between Fiona Stanley Hospital’s State Adult Burns Unit staff and a young patient has led to the creation of a new device to assist in skin healing, which is a world-first.

Burns patient and mechanical engineer Adrian Krop used a 3D printer to create and test a prototype of the arm-positioning device.

The axilla (armpit) positioning device ensures a padded arm rest stays in the correct position for optimum healing of skin, while maintaining muscles and joints.

In 2013 when he was in his early 20s, Mr Krop suffered more than 65 per cent burns while on a camping trip north of Perth.

He woke up in hospital three weeks later, on Christmas Eve, and stayed for more than four months for treatment.

During recovery, he started thinking about improving the arm-positioning device his medical team were using.

Having since graduated as an engineer and employed by a company that designs mining industry equipment, Mr Krop has been working on the device in his spare time.

Now the first six devices are being built in Perth to assist patients and clinicians who aim for the quickest, least painful recovery and the greatest mobility.

“While in hospital, I quickly realised how uncomfortable the existing arm supports were and how hard they were for the nurses and physiotherapists to position correctly,” Mr Krop said.

“Redesigning the arm board was an important way to reciprocate the care I received while in recovery.”

The project was a team effort, including Clinical Lead Senior Physiotherapist Associate Professor Dale Edgar, Senior Physiotherapists Dale Edwick and Paul Gittings with feedback from junior physiotherapists and nurses.

Assoc Prof Edgar said before and after skin graft operations for burns to this part of the body, it was essential the arm was held at right angles to the body.

“This is the best position to ensure skin takes optimally after grafting and gives the best chance of free arm movement and reduced shoulder joint damage during the prolonged recovery period after burn injury,” Assoc Prof Edgar said.

 “Adrian was an amazing patient – he understood how hard he had to work to get a good result, despite all his challenges, he just got on with it.”

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