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'Smart' bandages under development

May 28, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Researchers at the University of South Australia are creating bandages that can detect changes in a wound's environment and can alert a patient or caregiver by simply changing color.

According to a press release, these "smart" bandages contain thin film-like sensors incorporated directly into the dressing material. When a sensor detects changes in temperature or pH levels—signals that normally indicate an inflammation or infection—they change color.

Rather than using potentially toxic dyes or chemicals, these bandages change color due to the way light interacts with the sensor's surface.

In a related project, the researchers also are investigating the potential for these smart dressings to automatically release a drug in response to changes in the wound environment. If the temperature of a wound reaches a certain level, for example, an antibiotic would be dispensed.

In addition, researchers are working on a telemetric-enabled dressing that incorporates miniature battery-operated sensors that monitor changes in a wound's moisture level or whether the pressure in a compression bandage has dropped below acceptable levels. Data from these sensors are then sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone.

"This would be invaluable to community nurses and others who monitor a number of patients in a number of places," said Professor Nico Voelcker, Deputy Director of the Mawson Institute at the University of South Australia."Rather than having to keep dropping in to check on a wound, they would be alerted if a dressing had become too wet to be effective or the pressure had dropped too much. And they would know whether to take immediate action or schedule it for the near future."