Smart bandage

Not all smart Health Tech solutions require complex electronics to work their magic. A research team led by Assistant Professor Conor L. Evans at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) has come up with a way that could help patients with a variety of skin wounds heal faster and more safely. As they reported in a paper published in Biomedical Optics Express, the team has developed a smart bandage that can be painted or sprayed on a wound. It then can monitor the oxygen levels of the skin beneath it.

Oxygen is essential to the healing process as it keeps the tissues alive. Oxygen in the skin is supplied by arterial blood coming from the heart, and by absorbing oxygen from the air. If either of these sources are cut off, the skin tissues can be starved of oxygen and die. As a result, healthcare workers must be able to monitor the oxygen levels in the tissues. One way to do this is to insert fine probes into the tissue, but this can be painful, can cause additional damage to the tissue, and only reports results in a single location.

As stated in their paper, “there is an unmet clinical need for the development of a breathable, transparent, simple-to-apply-and-read and easily removable bandage for mapping oxygen across skin, burns, and grafts, that can report oxygen, protect the underlying tissue, and enable visual inspection of tissue through the bandage itself.” The solution is a phosphorescent material in a plastic material that is sprayed or painted onto the wound. The material indicates different levels of oxygen in the tissue, and this can be monitors across the entire wound area using a special camera. The bandage can then be removed without disturbing the underlying tissue.

This new system could have wide implications for a variety of wounds. In addition to traumatic injuries including cuts and severe burns, it would also be useful in treating chronic conditions that can result in decreased blood flow including diabetes, or from sores that result from being confined to a bed or wheelchair.