A Computer Simulation of Pressure Ulcer Formation Following Spinal Cord Injury: An Application of a Novel Agent-Based Biomedical Modeling Framework

Qi Mi1,5,* , Alexey Solovyev2,* , Leming Zhou3,5 , Maxim Mikheev4,5 , Joyeeta Dutta-Moscato4,5 , Gary An5,6 , and Yoram Vodovotz4,5

1 Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, 2 Department of Mathematics, 3 Department of Health Information Management, 4 Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
5 Center for Inflammation and Regenerative Modeling, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
6 Department of Surgery, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

* Contributed equally to the studies presented herein


Pressure ulcers are costly and life-threatening complications for patients with spinal cord injury. We hypothesized that a computer simulation of the pressure ulcer formation process could provide insights into the pathogenesis and effective treatment of such ulcers. In recent years, Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) has emerged as an innovative technique for modeling complex biological systems. We developed a novel ABM framework, SPARK (Simple Platform for Agent-based Representation of Knowledge), and used it to simulate the process of inflammation and pressure ulcer formation in the skin. The relationship between pressure and the course of ulcer formation is demonstrated in this model. This efficient model also captures several other important characteristic patterns of pressure ulcer formation. We suggest that computational modeling of inflammation and related processes will prove clinically useful in the setting of SCI-induced secondary complications.


Agent-based model, ABM, pressure ulcer, simulation, inflammation, wound healing


This work has been supported in part by NIDRR grant H133E070024, NIH grant P50-GM-53789-08, R01-HL080926, and R33-HL-089082, DoD Navy grant N00014-08-1-0412, and a grant from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Author contact information

Qi Mi, Ph.D.
Center for Inflammation and Regenerative Modeling
Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition
University of Pittsburgh
McGowan Institute Laboratory Building, Suite 214
3025 East Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Phone: 412-383-6690

Alexey Solovyev
Department of Mathematics
University of Pittsburgh
301 Thackeray Hall,
Pittsburgh, PA 15260