A smart bandage that can detect bedsores long before they become visible is currently being developed by Professor Michel Maharbiz and his team at the University of California, Berkley. The bandage will use electrical currents to detect cell damage and changes in the structure of the cell membrane or outermost layer before they become visible and, more importantly, while recovery is still possible. Normally by the time you see signs of a bedsore on the surface of the skin, it is usually too late. The hope is that the device will be built into bandages and wound dressings.
Bedsores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue. They often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body such as the hips or tailbone. People at risk are those confined to a bed or those with medical conditions requiring a wheelchair. Bedsores can develop quickly and cause considerable pain to the sufferer and expense to the NHS.
Following years of paralysis, actor Christopher Reeve died of an infection resulting from a bedsore. While bedsores do not in themselves cause death, they affect around half a million people each year in the UK and often become difficult to treat. When combined with other health issues, they can lead to amputations and, ultimately, death.
NHS England reports that most pressure ulcers are avoidable with the right care and early detection. A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Nursing said: "Pressure ulcers are both painful and distressing, but can be preventable. The cornerstone of prevention is risk assessment and mitigation which requires adequate numbers of skilled nurses both in the community and in hospitals."
Rebecca Morgan, associate in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, said: "Most of the cases of bed sores that we deal with end up with an admission of liability and a settlement because, with appropriate care, these should have been identified early on. Hopefully, the introduction of a device like the smart bandage will lead to a reduction in this type of injury and prevent the unnecessary pain and prolonged hospital stays experienced by patients.”