New smart bandage glows to show healing through surface

New smart bandage glows to show healing through surface

Ripping off a Band-Aid is never fun, but thanks to a new development from a group of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, tearing off a bandage over and over again just to see how a wound is healing may soon be a thing of the past.

A team led by Conor L. Evans from the Wellman Center of Photomedicine of Massachussetts General has recently developed what it calls a smart bandage: a spray-on, waterproof covering with the addition of special phosphors (synthetic fluorescent substances) that interact with oxygen to show exactly how the injury underneath is, or is not, healing.

The dressing has all of the properties of a traditional bandage, but with the added bonus of allowing doctors to directly observe the healing process without having to expose the wound to the open air.

“It’s fascinating science,” says Dr. Richard Fantus of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “When we talk about acute wounds, we always struggle with the fact that whenever we have to remove any type of dressing there is some level of pain on the part of the patient.  Transparent dressings like this one are a definite improvement in that respect.”

According to a study published by Evans in the journal Biomedical Optics Express, the bandage starts with the application of a film laced with phosphors that protects the injury. On top of that, another layer is applied that slows the exchange of oxygen between the first layer and the air, which ultimately makes the bandage responsive to oxygen within tissue, not outside. Depending on the level of oxygenation, the phosphors will glow with more or less intensity. By viewing the dressing through a special camera, the doctors can observe the changes in this glow to monitor healing taking place under the bandage.

The smart bandage is useful for wounds where oxygen monitoring is key, like plastic surgery, burns, skin grafts or any type of injury that restricts blood supply.

However, Evans’ designs for the technology don’t just end at oxygen detection – in the same way that phosphors were integrated into the film, Evans hopes to one day include the ability to deliver drugs from the covering straight to the wound.

“As far as transparent bandages go, this one is especially impressive,” Dr. Fantus says. “However, we need to keep in mind that everything comes at a cost, like how difficult the dressing will be to apply or how expensive this therapy will be on a large scale.  Still, the ability to observe the healing process without removing the dressing has real value. It will be very interesting to see where this technology goes.”

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  1. Katie Renz

    If I had to have a bandage on I would love to have one of these. I would imagine that a lot of kids would love to watch their wounds heal overtime so it would be a great learning experience for them too.

  2. Ernst Lamothe Jr October 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm · Reply

    That is interesting, especially when it comes to kids. They are always ripping band-aids

  3. I always have to urge my kids to take their bandages off since they would keep them on forever! This would help make my case that the injury has in fact healed.

  4. This is fascinating and sounds really smart … but I have to wonder whether it will really be sold in the market and how long it will last before conventional bandages push it off the shelves. Remember when Curad touted bandages impregnated with silver because of its antibiotic prperties? Still a great idea (and I used them successfully, too), but just try finding them to buy them now — 10 years ago when they came out, sure, but not now. Same goes for bandages using honey, which also promotes healing; I had an aunt with sores that took a while to heaal at her age, and the honey bandages reslly helped her, but she had one devil of a time finding them. They were also more expensive. Why is it that some really great products get muscled out by the same old, same old? Sort of reminds you about why GE’s electric car years ago never made it (the Big Three targeted it, for one thing).

    Any chance that someone with clout is making this bandage, so that when people begin to use it they’ll still be able to find it on the market a year or two later? Without that, progress doesn’t mean much at all.

  5. Cool idea! I bet my kids would love it.

  6. What a great idea! Though I think part of the purpose of a bandage for me is to cover the wound, so I don’t have to see it. I don’t know that I would want to see a major wound all the time!

  7. What a cool concept! This could be great for reducing infection from peeking under bandages.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.