[Photo courtesy of Grace Gongaware]
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Soon, there may be new technology available to better treat veteran wounds.
Danger and disaster are often part of the job for our war heroes. Both during and after service, veterans are at risk for serious wounds — both physical and mental.
“The veterans have served and they deserve the best healthcare that we can provide,” said Dr. Kath Bogie.
About 15 years ago, biomedical engineer Dr. Kath Bogie began researching ways to better care for the chronic wounds veterans endure.
Dr. Bogie is a senior research scientist at the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System and an associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at Case Western Reserve University.
Both institutions helped her develop the “Exciflex” bandage.
“What we’ve developed is a bandage that has electrodes in it, but it also has sensors. So, there’s a bandage that has electrodes that are delivering electronic stimulation and sensors that are sensing the temperature in the wound, and by doing that, we can measure — we can determine, what the wound is doing,” said Dr. Bogie.
Dr. Bogie says the research so far shows the bandage can stay in place between five and seven days, and the wound heals between 50-70 percent more rapidly than during standard care.
Exciflex is comparable to other wearable technologies like Fitbits or Apple Watches, but this device doesn’t just provide statistics. It’s a therapy that treats while monitoring and allows doctors an electronic window into the wound without removing the bandage.
Current wound treatments include daily in-patient electrical stimulation therapy, which can be inconvenient for veterans, so the at-home care benefits this bandage could provide are major.
“That would really revolutionize the way in which we deliver electrical stimulation for wound healing,” said Dr. Kristi Henzel, who specializes in spinal cord injuries and disorders at the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System.
Exciflex could especially help veterans with spinal cord injuries or diabetes.
“So the amount of time that they spend on say bed rest to heal a sitting wound can really negatively impact their quality of life. So, anything that we can do as a healthcare system to expedite and speed up their wound healing is really, makes a huge difference in their life,” said Dr. Henzel.
Dr. Henzel says minimizing the number of dressing changes could save costs while promoting faster wound healing.
“Because not only do you not disturb the wound, but you also suppress the growth of bacteria and promote the growth of the granulation tissue, the delicate new blood vessels that need to form the basis of a healed, a healing scar for a wound,” said Dr. Henzel.
Clinical trials are expected to be underway in the coming months.
“I’m very enthusiastic about this technology and I really hope that it’s going to be in clinical use someday very soon,” said Dr. Henzel.