QNRF Newsletter Archive

Research in Qatar could greatly enhance wound management

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The technology allows patients and clinicians to monitor moisture in a wound without removing bandages
The treatment of open wounds is something that we take for granted as a systemized approach to health. Yet, the history of wound care as we know it spans back just 200 years. It was only in the early 1800s that Hungarian physician Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis proposed hand washing as an approach that could prevent infection. Physician Joseph Lister took this insight forward to treat surgical gauze with carbonic acid, which cut his surgical team’s mortality rate by nearly half. Today, the field of wound care is in the midst of a similar kind of transformation based on moisture and pH monitoring. Research in Qatar is making a significant contribution to this next leap forward.

Professor Patricia Connolly, of Strathclyde University in Scotland, has already made significant progress in moisture monitoring, with her patented WoundSense technology, currently used in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Scotland and UK (promoted there through the Department of Health). The technology monitors wound moisture without bandage removal, which, if unnecessary, is time and resource intensive as well as risky in terms of exposing wounds to infection—unless moisture levels indicate the need.

“Patients should be able to monitor moisture levels without removing the dressing,” Professor Connolly said. “The design involves sensors that are economical, sterile and disposable.”

WoundSense technology relies on electrodes that are in direct contact with the wound fluid. Ink is used as a conductor, so that the nature of the electrical signal along it can be used to indicate the level of moisture—essentially, the ionic (charged particle) movement and the level of resistance (to that movement) along the ink is directly related to the level of moisture in the wound, as is the system’s ability to store an electric charge.

“Technically we are measuring impedence,” Professor Connolly explained. “This is resistance and capacitance, the ability of an electrical system to store and conduct an electrical charge—it’s quite a sophisticated monitor we’ve set up.”

Professor Connolly said that there is a correlation between the rate and success of healing and the level of moisture in leg ulcers, which are a focal point of wound management research. This knowledge translates to other types of wounds as well.

“We are looking at ways for people to use this system at home so that nurses can visit and focus on other things besides changing dressings,” she said. “This would save nursing time."

Given the success of the moisture-detection technology, Professor Connolly has received support to oversee a large-scale study into similar technology based on pH. Funded by a QNRF National Priorities Research Program grant, she has teamed up with Dr. Ihab Seoudi and Dr. Hanadi Al Hamad, Consultant in Geriatric Medicine—both of Hamad Medical Corporation—to conduct a multi-disciplinary study into ways of monitoring pH at the wound site, which would offer insights into how the wound is progressing that have never before been available at early stages.

“The interesting thing about pH is that there are many questions associated with it,” Professor Connolly said. “pH is related to inflammation and infection, and nobody has done extensive research on this at the bedside. In Qatar we hope to build up a complete picture about how pH affects a wound.”

Until now, bacterial growth and wound progress have been based on observations alone. This wisdom has been cultivated over many generations of clinical practice, and yet it still comes up short compared to what pH sensors could offer.

“With this technology, we are able to provide a diagnostic profile that’s based on science,” Professor Connolly said. “Before, it was up to the nurses’ observations of debrided, dead tissue as well as the smell and look of a wound. By the time these signals came through, it could be quite far down the infection line. We will now have a lot more experience and parameters and be able to offer a better picture of what is going on with the wound and in turn be able to better manage intervention.

“QNRF support has been important in building the international collaboration among medical technicians, scientists, clinicians, wound management diagnostics experts and a lot of different specialists coming together. It’s hard to find the level of funding around a cross-disciplinary team like this, and it’s really important for the advancement of this technology.”

NPRP 4-603-3-179
Sensors for Advanced Wound Care. 
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