More and more, technology is innovating traditional wound dressing options.

Over the last several years, researchers have increasingly turned to technology to help advance the wound care industry. There are dressings that change color to identify infections. Experts have also created electronic bandages that stimulate the healing process. Doctors have even begun to rely more on services like Skype to remotely diagnose patients’ wounds.

In the latest development, an international team of doctors unveiled an exciting breakthrough in wound healing technology, a dressing that can monitor patients’ progress.

Talking back

Called DermaTrax, this “smart dressing” was designed in a partnership between Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute and Fleming Medical and the Holst Centre/TNO in the Netherlands. The unique bandage features specially built sensors that continually monitor a patient’s vital signs, including pH level, the skin’s moisture content, body temperature and heart rate, through an electrocardiogram. The actual sensors are made from a thin, flexible material, which means they won’t bother the patient or cause needless irritation.

If any of these measurements happen to change suddenly and dip into dangerous territory, the dressing can alert a nearby nurse’s station through an accompanying wireless communication system. That means that nurses and doctors can watch over the wound without the use of continual re-dressings and evaluating the site through traditional measures. Having to frequently change a wound’s bandages can lead to instances of improper dressing, and that increases the risk of infection. Plus, this smart dressing can be a time-saving measure for busy caregiving staff.

“DermaTrax will revolutionize current practice, which involves the manual removal of a dressing and visual inspection of the underlying wound,” said Dr. Conor O’Mahony, project leader at Tyndall, in an accompanying press release. “This is time-consuming for the nursing staff, uncomfortable for the patient, and disturbs the natural healing process. This hi-tech dressing will generate significant savings in healthcare costs, due to reduced clinical inspection time and shorter hospital stays as a result of faster wound healing.”

Paying the price

Dr. Paul Galvin is the head of Tyndall’s ICT health department. He explained that the Irish-Netherlands team was motivated by two key factors. The first was that they wanted to raise the profile of Ireland in the wound care industry to make the country, as he described it, an “international hub for medical device research and development.”

The second is financially motivated, as Galvin estimated that the institute’s work in medical projects like DermaTrax could be worth nearly $11 million by 2018. Yet Tyndall’s team is just as concerned about the financial health of patients.

“The cost of chronic wound-care can be very high. For instance, in the UK alone, around 200,000 patients are treated for chronic wounds yearly at an estimated annual cost of £4 billion,” said O’Mahony. “Because of this cost, it is vital for patients and the taxpayer alike that these wounds are managed effectively.”

The U.S. faces similar financial constraints. In 2009, the National Institutes of Health released a study that examined the country’s chronic wound care industry. Nearly 7 million Americans suffer from chronic wounds, resulting in a collective price tag of nearly $25 billion annually.

Devices like DermaTrax can do wonders to help the healthcare industry, and by extension, patients and consumers save money. In 2014, OSNovative Systems released the “Any Wound” Enluxtra dressing, a special self-adapting bandage. An accompanying study found that these dressings can actually reduce associated costs by up to 30 percent.

Looking toward the future

There are a slew of other equally exciting breakthroughs in the wound care industry. For instance, there is ongoing research into a paint-on bandage that can alert doctors to changes in the state of a wound, Gizmag reported. There are also bandages like Aid-Tec, which can release a series of therapeutic compounds and medications, according to ISRAEL21c.

No matter where technology takes the industry, Advanced Tissue will continue to serve as the nation’s leader in specialized wound care supplies, delivering to both patients and clinicians alike.