Better bandages to help healing

August 13, 2009 2:56:02 PM PDT
The persistent pain and infections from chronic wounds can last for decades, and patients often find themselves at a dead end -- with amputation the only option left. New treatments provide a way out and ways to catch infection before it even happens. Tom White has a constant reminder of his days on the front lines.

"I got wounded over Palermo in a B-17 raid," White said.

His World War II wound wouldn't heal. Amputation was his only option until White's doctor recommended a bandage that uses electricity to jump-start healing.

"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, Arizizona.

When the bandage is moistened, it creates an electric current that stimulates healing.

"We're recreating the bioelectric potential that's there," Dr. Sheftel said.

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

Other doctors are using a new bandage infused with a special type of honey. Josh Pennington tried it three years after a rock gouged his leg.

"It killed bacteria with some of the enzymes it has within it," said Dr.Christopher Attinger, Chairman of the Division of Wound Healing at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Pennington's wound shrunk 95 percent.

"Power to the bees!" Pennington said.

Another experimental bandage lets you know if your wound will get infected.

"It's measuring enzymes secreted by the bacteria that cause wound infections," said Mitchell Sanders with ECI Biotech in Worcester, Massachusettes.

The band-aid turns blue if it picks up the signals of an impending infection, letting you know if the cut needs extra care.

Treating chronic wounds costs an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion dollars each year. In clinical trials, the electric bandage encouraged healing, relieved pain and reduced risk of infection. The Medi-Honey bandages cost $50 for a box of ten and are effective against MRSA.

Web produced by Maura Sweeney


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