Smart Bandages: Remote Wound Healing Reduces Risk Of Amputations
Health Innovation Technology

Smart Bandages: Remote Wound Healing Reduces Risk of Amputations

Every year, 500,000 amputations take place due to chronic or hard-to-heal wounds – which are those that take longer than six weeks to heal. They inflict a substantial economic burden on health care systems worldwide as well, with over $28 billion in Medicare costs annually in the US alone.

Over 6.5 million people in the US suffer from such wounds. They include soldiers and veterans with hard-to-heal blast wounds from explosions and people with chronic wounds like diabetic ulcers. These patients require continual monitoring by a healthcare professional. The status of the injury must be known at all times.

Smart Bandages: Remote Wound Healing Reduces Risk Of Amputations
Credit: Nano Micro Small / Cover of Vol 14 No. 33

To make this easier, a couple of bright ideas have been developed. One is a bandage by UC Santa Cruz collaborating with UC Davis, and Tufts University researchers with mHealth sensors designed to help serious wounds heal faster and more effectively. The sensor-embedded smart bandage includes a remote patient monitoring platform so healthcare professionals can track the wound’s progress. It also delivers ions to control the electrochemical environment of the injury, as well as small molecules and growth factors to stimulate faster healing. The telemedicine platform uses AI technology that uses the data collected from the sensors to adjust the healing stimuli. The goal is to halve the healing time.

Marco Rolandi, the project’s principal investigator who is the associate professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Cruz’s Baskin School of Engineering, said:

What’s unique about this project is we want to close the loop between sensing and stimulating so that there is feedback between the wound and the intelligent bandage.

Smart Bandages: Remote Wound Healing Reduces Risk Of Amputations
Credit: Grapheal

The other is a graphene bandage by scientists at a biotech startup called Grapheal, which is a spin-off company from France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (also known as the Neel Institute). It is an ultra-flexible dressing that adapts easily to the body. Built-in are tiny wireless electronics with graphene that transfer wound status data to a mobile application.

Vincent Bouchiat of Grapheal explained:

The conductivity of the Graphene electrode varies according to the physicochemical changes in the wound, so we have produced films of this material on a polymer (a plastic) and integrated them into a bandage that can record biological parameters by direct contact with the wound bed.

As a bonus, graphene is antibacterial, so it should help facilitate the wound-healing process while avoiding infection.

These methods provide early detection of abnormalities. Both types of bandages alert medical staff of any infection that may arise and therefore prevent complications. Both help accelerate healing in some way as well, one through regenerative medicine processes and the other through the inherent healing properties of the material itself.

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