Design Optimization of an Ergonomic Lead Garment; The Actor Network that Contributed to the Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

Fuller, Briana, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Mehta, Nishaki, MD-INMD CV Medicine, University of Virginia

Design Optimization of the Ergonomic Lead Garment

A lead garment is protective clothing used by radiographers, surgeons, and medical teams to protect against the side effects of radiation. As surgery is moving towards more minimally invasive procedures the use of x-rays and need for protective clothing has increased. The lead garment usually consists of one or two pieces which can weigh up to a total of 20 pounds leading to a significant amount of orthopedic stress on health professionals. Health professionals wear these garments from anywhere from four to ten hours a day while performing operations. Health professionals experience more low back pain than other occupations (Karahan et al., 2009) and a significant amount miss work because of this pain (Pelz, 2000). This device causes a significant amount of stress on their shoulders and lower back leading to persistent pain as they progress through their careers. Therefore, the primary goal of this project is to design and test a modified lead garment support to reduce orthopedic stress on medical teams. In order to reduce stress on the shoulders a lead garment support is developed that is worn over the scrubs and under the lead garment. The lead garment support consists of two hooks that hover over the shoulders and connect to the user with a belt like feature. The support reduces the pressure on the shoulders and transfers the weight to the hips. With this improvement surgeons are able to perform operations more effectively as a significant stress factor is reduced. It allows increased mobility and functionality as the technical capability in clinical practice will increase significantly. Thus, this project serves as an important resource in the surgery field especially the emerging minimally invasive surgery field. As the patient demand for these surgeries is increasing the research conducted will significantly impact that field. This project leads to an improved quality of health and medical outcomes, as well as improved performance and reduced health care costs.

The Actor Network that Contributed to the Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is one of the most widespread public health crises in the United States, causing 28,000 deaths per year and affecting nearly every race and socioeconomic group (Conrad, 2017). The opioid epidemic was largely affected by multiple stakeholders, such as pharmaceutical companies, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and individuals who misuse opioids. The research question at hand is: How did the surrounding actor-network contribute to the rise of the opioid epidemic in the United States? Actor-network theory is applied to reframe the issue by focusing on the structural factors that contributed to the opioid epidemic rather than blaming individuals who misuse opioids. A network analysis of relevant stakeholders is conducted to develop an understanding of the relationships, organizational structures, and hierarchies between each stakeholder. A policy analysis is used to question the formation and implementation of multi-level pharmaceutical and healthcare policies that drove the rise of the opioid epidemic. In addition, a historical case study of West Virginia is conducted to understand the socioeconomic dynamics of the state that made it a susceptible area for widespread effect of the opioid epidemic. This research aims to define the relationships that connect the different sectors of the medical field that contributed to the opioid epidemic. This research is conducted to dive deep into a public health crisis that was largely caused by the medical industry.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor Network Theory, lead garment, Opioid Epidemic

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Nishaki Mehta
STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: Rohni Awasthi

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