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Imaging technology to advance chronic wound care

Researchers from the RMIT University are working with a not-for-profit health and aged care provider on a clinical trial of imaging technology to improve chronic wound care.

As reported, they are working to evaluate whether thermal imaging techniques can help predict which leg wounds caused by poor vein function will not heal as quickly as they should.

The Problem

Nearly half a million Australians suffer from chronic wounds, which cost the nation’s health system about AU$ 3 billion each year. Untreated chronic wounds are the leading cause of limb amputation.

This technique was previously used by the University’s biomedical engineers to predict the healing of foot wounds in people with diabetes.

Meanwhile, this new project has built on that work with a focus on leg wounds.

The senior clinical nurse advisor from the aged care provider explained that leg wounds happened more often in older people and the associated pain and discomfort could stop people from going out and doing the things they wanted to do.

Additionally, many people do not seek help for their wounds until they have had them for quite a while. Thus, this makes the wounds harder to heal.

They also may take a long time to heal and lead to complications like infections and needing to go to hospital.

A big problem in wound care is that it is hard to know which wounds will not heal as expected and will be in need of more help to heal better.

Venous leg ulcers, which do not heal because veins do not efficiently bring the blood back to the heart, are the most common type of leg wound and can cause swelling in legs and other problems.

About the project

Eighty Melbourne-based clients of the facility with venous leg wounds were involved in the research over 10 months.

Clients had normal and narrow band imaging photographs analysed using the RMIT purpose-built proprietary analysis software, with information also be collected on treatments that make a difference to healing.

How the imaging works

Narrow band imaging techniques take photographs with up to 100 colour channels.

These images can help measure wound temperature and provide accurate information about the chemistry of wounds.

This will include whether inflammation is present, something normally only found through pathology tests.

The research will allow health professionals to identify slower healing wounds early and provide additional help to speed the healing process.

According to the Leader of the Biosignals for Affordable Diagnostics research group in the School of Engineering, thermal imaging can show the true health of a wound but the images can be very difficult to interpret.

He added that many wounds heal naturally and are best left undisturbed. However, chronic wounds need to be managed as early as possible.

The method they developed would enable the easy analysis of thermal images and connects them to the healing trajectory.

The technology gives clinicians the means for early stage detection of a chronic wound. This will allow them to see which wounds need attention and which ones can be left to heal naturally.

With this tool, clinicians can start treating chronic wounds early and reduce the trauma for patients.

The continued development of innovative scientific techniques will produce more meaningful information to help the wider community proactively manage their health.

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