New treatment for chronic open sores

May 6, 2009 3:20:27 PM PDT
From diabetic ulcers to injuries, more than 850,000 chronic wounds are diagnosed in the United States each year. These open sores can be extremely painful, prone to infection and can put patients at risk of amputation. Now, there's a new option just approved by the FDA. It's a bandage-like device that creates an electric current that penetrates the skin. And that's welcome news for Tom White.

"I got wounded over Palermo in a B-17 raid," said Tom. "I was the lead navigator and our plane was hit."

White has more than photographs and medals to mark his military days. Ever since he was wounded in World War II, he's been fighting a battle with war wounds that wouldn't heal.

"They said I was caught between a rock and a hard place, and they could do nothing but recommend amputation," White said.

Just when it seemed like there were no other options, a doctor recommended something new.

"It looks like a regular bandage, but it doesn't act like a regular bandage," said Dr. Scott Sheftel, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

When the bandage is moistened, it activates zinc and silver elements on the surface, creating a small electric current that penetrates the skin to stimulate healing. The patients don't feel anything.

"It's a normal physiologic stimulus," Dr. Sheftel said. "We're not giving something that's going to shock you like a TENS unit. We're recreating the bioelectric potential that's there."

In clinical trials, the bandage jump-started healing, relieved pain and reduced the risk of infection in hundreds of patients with chronic hard to heal wounds.

"It stimulates healing -- stimulates cellular migration -- and that's part of the healing process," Dr. Sheftel said.

Thanks to the new bandage and some TLC from his wife, White's wound has shrunk significantly.

"It's working," White said. "It's tough. It's been a year, but it's working."

Soon, White hopes to be walking again, and at 90 years young, he's looking forward to many good years ahead.

The FDA approved the electric bandage in December. It's not covered by insurance yet, but its creators hope it will be within the next six months.

Web produced by Maura Sweeney


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