Electric Bandage

June 8, 2009 9:43:13 AM PDT
Treating chronic wounds cost an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion each year, according to a recent JAMA article. Many of these are pressure ulcers or diabetic ulcers. An estimated 1.3 to 3 million Americans have pressure ulcers and as many as 10 to 15 percent of those with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic ulcers. Pressure ulcers result from staying in one position for too long and cause an area of skin to break down and die. They start as reddened skin but progress to form a blister, then an open sore and finally a crater. They often happen in bony areas of the body like the elbows, hips and back of the head. Diabetic ulcers often affect the foot and take place because of decreased blood flow to the legs and numbness caused by nerve damage. The foot ulcers are at a very high risk of becoming infected and are a frequent cause of amputation. The American Diabetes Association says diabetic foot ulcers occur most often on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe. Other chronic wounds include venous ulcers -- or wounds that result from arterial disease -- and leg ulcers caused by sickle cell disease.CHRONIC WOUNDS: The Wound Healing Society established a set of chronic wound care guidelines in 2007 to try to bring consensus to the medical community on how to diagnose and treat the persistent problem. Those guidelines include the following: every wound that contains dead tissue must undergo removal of the dead tissue; infections in a wound must be taken care of first; and skin transplantation must be considered in the case of large chronic wounds.

TREATMENTS: Wound dressings are often used to protect skin affected by chronic wounds and assist in healing. They can be anything from bandages available at the drug store to complex materials that contain antibacterial and antiviral medications. Skin substitutes are another option. They are made from human cells called fibroblasts that are placed on a dissolvable mesh material. When that material is placed on the wound, the skin cells are gradually absorbed and replace damaged tissue. One treatment specifically geared toward diabetic ulcers -- called becaplermin -- contains genetically engineered platelet-derived growth factor, one of the proteins the body uses to encourage the growth of new tissue. Those proteins are delivered to the wound in gel form. Research shows a technique called topical negative pressure can also assist in the healing of wounds that won't go away. During the procedure, suction is applied to a wound through a drainage tube using a VAC pump, wall suction or surgical drainage bottle. Experts think the suction helps a wound heal by increasing blood supply, removing fluid and bacteria and stimulating tissue formation, among other things.

Other promising treatments for chronic wounds involve using electricity to stimulate cell movement and growth. One recently developed device called the Procellera is a bioelectric wound dressing that uses radio frequency energy to stimulate cells back to life. The bandage is useful on chronic injuries caused by surgical incisions or bruising.


William Miller
Vomaris Innovations
(480) 921-4948