Shape of things to comeSmart bandage tells doctors about state of wound healing

Published 8 April 2009

Dutch researchers develop a smart bandage which updates doctors about the wound healing process; bandage made of printed electronic sensors; the researchers’ next goal: add an antenna to transmit information about the patient’s health remotely to the attending physician

Here is good news for soldiers and first responders who are injured in the line of duty, patients in hospitals, and the medical staff that takes care of them: a bandage that makes use of printed electronics could soon alert doctors to changes in the wound-healing process without the need to undergo extensive check-up appointments. Developed by researchers at the Holst Center in the Netherlands, the Smart Bandage uses a film that combines light sources and photo sensors (pixels) to measure the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood around the damaged tissue.

Ellie Zolfagharifard writes that he team hopes the Smart Bandage will help in the commercialization of the next generation of extremely small and very low-cost printed electronic sensor technology. By using techniques currently employed in glucose monitoring, the Smart Bandage is claimed to employ advanced scalable printing to enhance patient monitoring by regulating how often a bandage needs to be changed.

Jaap Lombaers, managing director at the Holst Center, said: “Embedded in bandages, sensor films deliver important information about healing progress. Doctors are better able to determine the best time to change bandages and therefore speed up the healing process.”

In addition to cost, the use of organic and printed electronics cuts down the amount of weight added to the bandage. They also offer insulating and semiconductive properties — both of which could allow for further use of the product.

The bandage features pixels measuring approximately 2mm x 2mm. Current demonstration models allow space for arrays of 100 pixels at the most. Larger films with more pixels are also possible. In the future, the team hopes to develop the system further by adding devices such as an antenna to transmit information about the patient’s health remotely to the attending physician. The developers claim that this will not only improve treatment, but also time management and cost of medical appointments.

The technology is expected to be ready to market in the next few years and comes on the back of similar products being developed in the United Kingdom.
One such product is the Sensium “digital plaster” developed by Abingdon-based company, Toumaz. The module offers a mobile analysis of a patient’s vital statistics and transmits personal readings onto an SD card or USB module. According to the company, this will provide a real-time analysis of a patient’s health and offer improved personalized care applications.

Speaking of the developments at the Holst Center, Keith Errey, chief operating officer at Toumaz, said: “This is a fantastic complementary technology and an example of how a new type of sensor will be able to run on the Sensium platform. By collaborating with our technology, we would be able to provide the Smart Bandage with wireless functionality. This will help it operate in a network and provide remote-monitoring capability. As the Sensium technology becomes more universal, I think we’ll see many more of these new and interesting technologies.”