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New smart bandage provides instant updates on the condition of chronic wounds remotely.

Injuries that fail to heal within three months, such as many diabetic foot ulcers, can require years of treatment and significant healthcare resources.  Researchers are working on new kinds of wearable sensors that alert users outside the hospital environment of potentially concerning changes in body temperature, heart rate or blood pressure. Chronic wound monitoring, however, has received less attention from device designers. One problem is that subtle forces that disrupt healing, such as bacterial infections, are difficult to detect with automated systems.  Now, a study from researchers at KAUST develops a sensor-laden bandage. The team state that their smart bandage system promises to reduce the burden on hospitals and enhance patient well-being by transforming how chronic wounds are monitored.  The opensource study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous studies show that chronic wounds affect millions of patients around the world.  Infection and frequent bleeding are indicators of chronic wound development, for which there is currently no commercially available wireless device to continuously monitor the wound healing process.  Patients rely on medical staff for physical inspection of the wound, which requires repeated trips to clinics or prolonged hospitalization. After surgical treatments, patients are manually repositioned every hour to relieve pressure in order to avoid the development of pressure ulcer.  The current study develops a smart bandage that monitors three parameters simultaneously, bleeding, pH levels and external pressure, to provide realtime updates on wound status using wireless technology.

The current study develops a complete wearable system to wirelessly monitor chronic wounds using a simple bandage strip.  Results show that the sensor and wireless electronics on the bandage can be detached and reused on another bandage, maintaining the disposability and hygenicity of the bandage strip in contact with the wound.  Data findings show that the bandage could communicate with a smartphone-like receiver up to 60 meters away; furthermore, the device was robust enough to be worn for an extended time and for its wearer to bend often.

The lab state that the wearable smart bandage can alert the patient and healthcare providers as to any abnormality in the wound healing process through the integrated wireless module. They go on to add that continuous monitoring also facilitates acquisition of long-term wound progression data. The researchers note that the sensor as well the circuit board and antenna are manufactured using a low-cost inkjet printing process, and flexible substrates which make it attractive in terms of wearability and cost.

The team surmise that their smart bandage system can be used to monitor any type of chronic wound regardless of its size due to the fact the sensor dimensions are scalable.  For the future, the researchers state that their smart bandage can be worn in daily life and provides an attractive solution for remote health monitoring, meeting the demands of the growing population.

Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Wearablility tests. Smart bandage (with exposed electronics) worn on (b) wrist (c) elbow and (d) shoulder. Low Cost Inkjet Printed Smart Bandage for Wireless Monitoring of Chronic Wounds. Shamim et al 2016.
Wearablility tests. Smart bandage (with exposed electronics) worn on (b) wrist (c) elbow and (d) shoulder. Low Cost Inkjet Printed Smart Bandage for Wireless Monitoring of Chronic Wounds. Shamim et al 2016.

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