Once a wound has been thoroughly cleaned and patched up, it is covered with a bandage that, more often than not, should remain in place for a while to protect the wound from pathogens. Despite being cleaned, however, there’s always the chance that an infection will form regardless, and that’s where a new type of ‘smart’ bandage comes in.
The smart bandage is intended for diagnosing infections as they begin to form, giving doctors the opportunity to treat the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. The system works by incorporating tiny nanosensors in the bandage’s fibers; these sensors are composed of single-walled carbon nanotubes that pick up on hydrogen peroxide, which is produced when there are harmful bacteria present.
When the nanosensors pick up on the hydrogen peroxide, their fluorescence changes in a way that is detectable using a ‘miniaturized wearable device,’ according to the researchers. This device would send an alert to the user’s smartphone wirelessly to let them know that medical attention may be necessary.
The smart bandage could be particularly useful for diabetics whose wounds take longer to heal and are more likely to form infections. By identifying a possible infection earlier, this could enable doctors to treat the problem early and potentially save the patient from more drastic outcomes, including things like an amputation.
Additional research on the smart bandages is necessary, with the next step being a phase that involves verifying the technology using a petri dish full of the same type of cells you’d find in a flesh wound. Testing has involved small bandages like the one featured above, but the researchers note that the same nanosensors could be used in large bandages, too.