A bandage on a wound gives necessary relief for the time being, but in the long run, it’s very hard to know how well you are healing until you unwrap it, and that usually means a trip to the clinic. Now, if recent research is anything to go by, this process could be a thing of history, as scientists at the Swansea University in the UK are developing 3D-printed “smart bandages” that can precisely monitor the healing of a wound. The bandages would use 5G data to transfer information about a wound to computers or other smart devices. Simply put, you’ll never have to wonder what’s going on underneath all that cloth.
The researchers say these incredible futuristic swathes, packed with sensors and 5G data transfer technology, could help doctors track the healing progress of a patient’s wound, reducing the need for constant check-ups while providing immediate warnings if the injury appears to be infected or otherwise a matter of concern.
As per the Swansea researchers, monitoring of the wound would be carried out by tiny sensors developed by nanotechnology experts, while 3D printers would be used to fabricate the bandages in an affordable manner.
The 3D-printed smart bandages are part of a larger project to implement 5G technologies in the region. Recently, UK Prime Minister Theresa May signed off a £1.3-billion investment in the Swansea Bay City Region, part of which involves creating a 5G test hub for digital innovation.
However, this is not the first 3D-printed bandage we’ve seen. Back in 2014, a group of University of Toronto graduate students developed skin-like 3D bioprinted bandages that could help advance the treatment of burns. But the research being conducted at Swansea University is the first we’ve seen where the bandage itself actually transmits information back to the doctor.
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Other scientists at the University of California have been testing dressings that use sensors to pick up tissue damage and hope they could prevent patients from suffering bedsores. Researchers have also created hydrogel films embedded with sensors that could send a drug to a wound. LED lights can warn patients and doctors about changes in different areas. Medication can then spread across the bandage through tiny passageways.
Also, last year, researchers at University of Bath in the UK had developed bandages that glow bright yellow if the wound underneath has been infected. The invention is intended to give an early warning of injuries from burns or scalds going septic under the dressing.
Existing methods of detecting infections can take up to 48 hours to come through—as well as removing wound dressings, which can be painful and distressing. Removal of bandages can also cause scarring. The bandages—which also come in the form of plasters—are currently undergoing clinical trials with burns victims at four UK hospitals.