Healing sensor

A new device that monitors how well wounds are healing could bring faster relief to patients and save health services thousands of pounds.

Bioengineers at the Strathclyde Institute for Medical Devices have pioneered a system that allows doctors and nurses to check the conditions under a dressing without having to remove it.

Instead, a tiny sensor attached to the gauze monitors whether the wound is moist – the optimum environment for healing – or too dry or wet to heal properly.

‘The system is designed to take the guess work out of wound care. Currently, if a doctor or nurse wants to check the progress of a wound, they have to remove the dressing – a process which can disturb the wound and be detrimental to the healing process. It can also lead to unnecessary pain or discomfort for the patient,’ said Prof Patricia Connolly, director of the Institute.

‘The monitor means dressings aren’t changed unless they need to be, allowing wounds to heal as quickly as possible and enabling the patient to get on with life. The system also leads to less pressure on valuable resources – both in terms of time and material,’ she added.

The system is currently under clinical trial on patients with chronic leg ulcers with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The research was supported by Proof of Concept funding, worth nearly £200,000, from Scottish Enterprise.

Chronic leg ulcers affect 10 out of every 1,000 adults in the western world at some time in their lives. If successful, the monitor could be ready for use in hospitals as early as next year.

The sensor, around half the size of a first class stamp, is attached via a sterile pad to the dressing itself, meaning no pain for the patient. It is connected to wires which can be plugged in to the monitor to allow doctors or nurses to take a reading. It is anticipated it could be used for any kind of chronic or acute wound, including burns, chronic surgical wounds and sores.

The wound monitor project is the first of a range of collaborative projects planned between NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and the Strathclyde Institute of Medical Devices to bring new medical devices and technology to patients in the community.