Though the human body has a tremendous capability to heal itself, wound healing can stall and create chronic non-healing wounds due to a variety of reasons such as ischemia, bacterial contamination, and chronic inflammation. IDTechEx Research have published a comprehensive report, Advanced Wound Care Technologies 2020-2030, explaining why the incidence of chronic wounds is set to rise drastically in the next 10 years, and how electronic devices and other emerging technologies can address this upcoming challenge.
Previously, IDTechEx Research have reported on several different roles that electronics can play in the wound care process, including even preventing wounds from forming in the first place. IDTechEx has also written about smart bandages as the future of wound care. These smart bandages will monitor wounds and deliver directed therapy. While these smart bandages are still in development and thus a few years away from commercialization (and several more years away from mass adoption), there are already electronic bandages that are in use today in the care of chronic wounds.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy
One such example of an electronic bandage is the RecoveryRx from BioElectronics. The RecoveryRX is a small device with a loop within which pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is delivered. Though PEMF therapy is primarily used in pain relief, the device has been shown to promote wound healing and reduce wound pain. It can easily be incorporated into wound dressings. One of the proposed mechanisms of action for PEMF is the reduction of inflammation and swelling at the wound. This device received FDA market clearance in July 2019.
Oxygen is critical to the wound healing process, and many patients undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to treat their chronic wounds. High concentrations of oxygen can trigger the growth of new blood vessels and production of collagen, both key to the wound healing process. However, HBOT is costly and inconvenient to patients. Inotec AMD have developed the Natrox, a portable device that supplies a high concentration of oxygen directly to the wound bed via a patch. The device, about the size of a mobile phone, generates oxygen via electrolysis.
Negative Pressure Wound Therapy
Finally, and by far the most common form of electronic bandage that is in use today, is the ultraportable negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) device. NPWT refers to the application of negative pressure on the wound, which may be supplied by wall suction in the hospital, reusable, portable units, or increasingly, disposable ultraportable devices that fit within the patient's pocket. These devices typically consist of a pump that provides the negative pressure, and a small canister to collect the exudate from the wound. With these ultraportable devices, patients now have the freedom to walk around and perform their daily activities while receiving NPWT. By increasing focus on patient mobility, and speeding up discharge from care facilities, ultraportable NPWT devices deliver significant benefit to both the patient and the healthcare system. Major companies with ultraportable NPWT devices include Smith & Nephew, ConvaTec, and Acelity.
To learn more about other uses of electronic skin patches, please refer to the IDTechEx Research report: Electronic Skin Patches 2019-2029.
Top image: RecoveryRx from BioElectronics