Wound repair smart sensor could help nurses assess patient healing

Researchers developing microsensor to monitor wound healing from within a bandage

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh developing microsensor to monitor wound healing from within a bandage

Smart banadage
Picture: Alamy

A wound repair sensor is being developed that could help nurses keep track of how patients are healing.

Engineers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are working on the microsensor, which would assess wound repair from within a bandage by monitoring tiny mechanical changes in the body’s tissue.

Wound care costs the NHS billions each year

It is estimated wounds –including burns, diabetic ulcers, caesarean section scars, surgical incisions and simple cuts – cost the NHS between £4.5 billion and £5.1 billion a year.

Biomedical engineer Michael Crichton, who was awarded £360,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for the two-year project, said the aim is to ‘understand what actually happens in a wound’.

‘We're working to create a small sensor that can be embedded in a bandage to measure changes in a wound's properties without interfering with the process,’ he said.

‘The sensor will make small mechanical measurements – much like how a doctor would prod a lump – and will tell us how the tissue is changing, or whether the wound needs a different dressing or treatment.’

Smart sensor alerts rather than visual assessments

Dr Crichton said this approach is a step away from traditional wound assessment.

‘At the moment, we judge the progress of wounds on patients' reports of pain and how the wound looks to the naked eye of health professionals,’ he said.

‘Our smart sensor will alert the patient and their care team when intervention is needed to make sure the wound heals better, or when it is all progressing nicely under the bandage.’

University of Edinburgh specialist in wound healing immunology Jenna Cash, who is working with Dr Crichton on the project, said: ‘This is an innovative, patient-focused research project that addresses the urgent need for us to better understand wounds.

‘Our work on the immunological response during healing is reflected in mechanical changes and anything that combines these has the potential for new therapies in this area.’

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