foot bandage in a hospital

Smart bandage contains sensors to detect wound-healing process

Image credit: Dreamstime

A new ‘smart bandage’ has been developed that contains a sensor which detects moisture levels in a wound and then transmits the data to a nearby smartphone, without requiring doctors to remove the bandage.

Developed by researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy, the bandage allows doctors to determine how well a dressed wound is healing without removing the bandage, which can disrupt the healing process.

By changing the geometry and materials in the bandage, the researchers believe it could be fine-tuned to suit different types of wound.

Chronic wounds can be a source of significant suffering and disability for patients who experience them.

Getting such wounds to heal can be difficult due to a large number of varying factors that impact the healing process, such as temperature, glucose levels, and acidity. One of the most important is moisture levels – too dry, and the tissue can become desiccated; too wet, and it can become white and wrinkly. Both these situations disrupt the healing process.

Checking the moisture level of a wound typically involves removing the bandage, which can cause damage to the delicate healing tissue.

The new smart bandage uses a conductive polymer that has been applied onto a gauze using a screen-printing technique; the gauze is then incorporated into commercially available bandage materials. The idea is that changes in the moisture level of the wound cause a change in an electrical signal measured by the sensor.  

The organic semiconducting polymer can be easily deposited on several substrates as a standard ink.

“We also incorporated a cheap, disposable and bandage-compatible RFID tag, similar to those used for clothing security tags, into the textile patch. The tag can wirelessly communicate moisture level data with a smartphone, allowing healthcare staff to know when a bandage needs to be changed,” said Dr Marta Tessarolo of the University of Bologna, an author on the study.   

To test their bandages, the researchers exposed them to artificial wound exudate, which is the liquid that seeps from wounds, and also tested different bandage materials and shapes. They found that the bandage was highly sensitive, providing widely differing readings between dry, moist and saturated conditions, suggesting it could be a valuable tool in wound management.

“We developed a range of bandages with various layers and different absorption properties and characteristics,” said Dr Luca Possanzini, another author from the University of Bologna.

“The idea is that each type of wound could have its own appropriate dressing, from slowly exuding wounds to highly exuding wounds, such as burns and blisters. However, we will need to further optimise the sensor geometry and determine the appropriate sensor values for optimal healing before we can apply our technology to various types of wounds.”

Various smart bandages have been developed over the years, including one that releases medications into a wound when commanded by an app and a smart patch that could allow people to self-administer Covid-19 vaccines.

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