Smart bandages which can detect how well a wound is healing and send a progress report to the doctor will be trialled within the next year, scientists have said. The dressings are fitted with tiny sensors which can pick up blood clotting, or spot infections, and wirelessly send data back to a clinician. Swansea University, which is hoping to trial the bandages within 12 months, said the new technology could offer a personalised approach to medicine.
Currently patients with wounds are advised to return to the doctor in a certain amount of time. But each case may need a longer time to heal, or may have become infected before the visit.
Prof Marc Clement, chairman of the Institute of Life Science (ILS), at Swansea, said: “Nanotechnology allows us to produce sensors to reduce the dimensions so that they are very, very small.
“They could be on an intelligent dressing. The next thing is to make those dressings at a cost that is affordable for the health service. How to you produce these smart devices? Clearly the most effective way of doing that is through a printing technique.
“This is a multi-technology approach, with nanotechnology, nanoelectronics, printing and coating biochemistry all interconnecting through 5G infrastructure to allow us tomorrow and in the future to deliver health care for a wound patient that delivers better patient outcomes and better quality of life.”
The smart bandage would also connect to the patient’s smartphone, which can also keep track of other health concerns, such as inactivity or diet, that could be preventing healing.
“You combine all of that intelligence so the clinician knows the performance of the specific wound at any specific time and can then tailor the treatment protocol to the individual and wound in question,” Prof Clement told the BBC.
“Traditional medicine may be where a clinician might see a patient and then prescribe the treatment approach for a month or three months. What the future holds is a world where there’s the ability to vary the treatment to the individual, the lifestyle and the pattern of life.
“Sometimes we revere doctors so much that we tell them all is well but all of the evidence is there before them in this 5G world, so the clinician and patient can work together to address the challenge.”
Clinical trials are already underway on smart bandages which change colour when a wound becomes infected.