Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Francisco are developing a "smart bandage" that can detect tissue damage before visible signs of pressure ulcers appear.
Using minute electrical currents produced by dozens of electrodes printed onto a thin, flexible film, the bandage is able to create a spatial map of the underlying tissue based on the electrical resistance of cells. As tissue cells begin to die, the cell walls break down, allowing electricity to leak through.
"We set out to create a type of bandage that could detect bedsores as they are forming, before the damage reaches the surface of the skin," said Michel Maharbiz, a UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and head of the smart-bandage project, in a press release. "We can imagine this being carried by a nurse for spot-checking target areas on a patient, or it could be incorporated into a wound dressing to regularly monitor how it’s healing."
Dr. Michael Harrison, a professor of surgery at UC San Francisco and a co-investigator of the study, added: "By the time you see signs of a bedsore on the surface of the skin, it’s usually too late. This bandage could provide an easy early-warning system that would allow intervention before the injury is permanent. ...The genius of this device is that it’s looking at the electrical properties of the tissue to assess damage. We currently have no other way to do that in clinical practice."