Can smart dressings eliminate the human factor?


The next generation of bandages may be able to tell you when a wound needs attention and in some cases, actually begin a therapuetic intervention.

Technology and engineering researchers at the University of South Australia have created a range of sensors that can detect changes in a wound environment which alert patients or health care staff by changing the colour of the dressing or sending a message to a smart phone.

Prototypes have been developed for three different concepts:

  • indicating inflammation or infection - sensors placed in polymers can be incorporated into the dressing material; these change colour when a change in temperature or pH level is detected. The colour comes from the way light interacts with the multi-layered structure of the sensor rather than using chemicals. In addition, if there is a change to the wound environment, for example the temperature reaches a certain level, drugs can be dispensed
  • telemetrics - electrical sensors incorporated into a dressing monitor can changes in wound moisture levels and compression pressure. The sensor contains a battery that connects to a smart phone, which in turn passes the message to another phone or a database
  • point-of-care biosensors - can detect the presence of bacteria or certain proteins and enzymes that are indicators of wound status. A small amount of wound fluid dropped on to the sensor would give a result in a couple of minutes; so little fluid is needed that a test could undertaken at each dressing change

Prof Voelcker, Deputy Director of the University's Mawson Institute says:

"This would be invaluable to community nurses and others who monitor a number of patients in a number of places... 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."

Prof Voelcker and a team of nine have been working on the projects since being approached by the national Cooperative Research Centre for Wound Management Innovation to bring their expertise in biosensors into the medical field.