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New partnership gives BME seniors opportunity to improve comfort, security for ostomy users

University of Illinois Chicago College of Engineering BME senior design team members Angela Lichauco, Terrence Lin, Tanvi Shingade, Nick Rojas-Rodriguez, Stuti Patel.

An ostomy creates a new normal for those who have one.

Ostomy pouches are worn by people that have a diversion in their intestine, due to a medical condition, that doesn’t allow them to use the bathroom like the general population. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot return to normal activities including running or swimming or weightlifting.

There are approximately 725,000 to 1 million people in the U.S. who have an ostomy, according to the United Ostomy Associations of America.

A new partnership between seniors in the Richard and Loan Hill Department of Biomedical Engineering and Hollister Incorporated, a medical device company that focuses on ostomy and continence care, is working to improve the lives of patients who use ostomy pouches.

The group is developing a new testing method that simulates the movements of how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to move. This new testing method replicates the tests of how people with ostomies might experience their product during physical activity.

“The opportunity to work with Hollister seemed very enticing, and having been to their facility and seen what the company is about, it’s easy to say that our experience with Hollister has exceeded our expectations,” BME student Nick Rojas-Rodriguez said. “This project is also a very novel concept as there has never been an automated method of simulating human biomechanics to test the quality of ostomy bags.”

These seniors, Angela Beatrice Lichauco, Rojas-Rodriguez, Stuti Patel, Tanvi Shingade, and Terrence Lin, want to help patients feel more confident and secure in their ostomy pouches with little to no failure when it comes to being physically active.

The group explained they also want to provide Hollister with a new method of ensuring their ostomy pouches are up to standard for end users who participate in physical activity.

Current tests are not representative of how people walk or run, according to the group’s mentors Adrian P. Defante PhD, senior scientist, and Mark Jockel, prototype engineer, of Hollister.

A tour of Hollister Incorporated allowed these seniors to also learn first-hand from a family with three children who are all people with ostomies, which is a rare occurrence, about their experiences.

“They described the issues they have and how it is so difficult to be physically active with a bag,” Patel said. “Having tried so many bags, and despite seeing some improvements over the years, there are still so many components of the ostomy bags that have yet to meet their needs.”

The group explained that they initially wanted to create a perfect solution, but with their continued excitement, have learned how to temper expectations and create systems that allow steady progress.

“We’re learning how to solve a problem and not what the correct answer is,” Shingade said.