Bandage-Sized Ultrasound Latest Device to Treat Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers are a huge medical problem affecting over half a million people a year in the US alone and estimated to be costing the US healthcare system over $1 billion a year. The ulcers occur primarily in the lower extremities of the body and are caused by venous pooling, which induces cell damage and ulceration.

Adele Graham-King

Historically management of these ulcers is acknowledged as being very difficult. Compression stockings are used to prevent the pooling of the blood. This is performed alongside regular cleaning, preventing infection, and ensuring the ulcers remain moist. Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) may be used. However this is more costly and requires a hospital-care pathway. Even with consistent care and treatment, the ulcers can take months, if not years to heal and have a massive impact on quality of life and mobility.

Researchers working at Drexel University in Philadelphia have designed and developed a new, novel method of treating venous ulcers by creating an applicator (worn like a bandage) that delivers a low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound directly to the wound. The band is fully portable and can be worn like a sticking plaster. All of this gives it a huge advantage over other ultrasound machines, which are generally cumbersome and require an electrical connection. Used alongside current treatment methods, the ultrasound plaster has shown initial results of improved healing, albeit in a small human test group of five patients compared to a no ultrasound group.

Although the device itself isn't currently presented in an aesthetically pleasing package, the research into the use of this type of ultrasound therapy may have much further reaching implications for the treatment of other ulcers such as diabetic ulcers and pressure sores.

This type of development highlights the advances that can be achieved by miniaturisation of technologies. It also shows how, by considering alternative packaging of developed technologies, we can provide disease-management solutions across different medical specialties. Ultrasound has historically been used for visualisation techniques. That's where many people place it.

The research team highlighted the fact that miniaturisation was one of the biggest issues the design team faced as they required the transducer to be able to produce medically relevant energy levels while using minimum voltage. The patch itself weighs around 100 grams and uses rechargeable batteries that enhance its portability. The fact that the ultrasound has been shrunk to facilitate portability makes the potential for this device huge.

Has the community had much experience of issues with miniaturisation and shrinking? If so, what sort of technical issues have there been? How did you address them? Please let me know.

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Adele Graham-King, Blogger

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