Researchers have developed a new "smart dressing" that's able to monitor patient wounds while in place, lowering the need for regular visual inspections. According to the device's creators, it's not only more convenient than standard dressings, but could also reduce costs associated with wound healing.

Technology has a huge impact on health care, facilitating countless improvement to our understanding of ailments, while giving us new way to treat them. Recently, we've seen some impressive developments, such as the Fraunhofer Institute's efforts to create a device that can act as a doctor's third arm, and even a robot that can cut around corners in patients' heads.

The trusty wound dressing might be evolving at a slightly slower rate, but we've seen some impressive ideas over the years, including a dressing designed to change color when an infection is present, and even a glowing, paint-on bandage that gives doctors an idea of how well skin is healing.

Now a collaborative team of researchers from three different institutions – Ireland's Tyndall National institute, Fleming Medical and the Holst Center in the Netherlands – have developed a smart dressing that could provide a big step forward in the treatment of wounds.

The idea behind the new tech, known as DermaTrax, is to make wound care more comfortable for the patient and easier for doctors. It achieves both of these goals by eliminating the need to repeatedly remove the dressing in order to conduct visual inspections.

The product contains temperature, moisture and pH sensors, working to automatically monitor the condition of the wound, as well as the state of the dressing itself. Information is relayed wirelessly back to the nurses' station, allowing for remote monitoring and immediate alerting and response if anything goes wrong, such as an infection being detected. The sensor module itself is flexible and thin, adding no more bulk than a typical dressing.

According to the research team, some 200,000 patients are treated for chronic wounds every year in the UK alone, costing an estimated £4 billion (US$6 billion) annually. Not only could DermaTrax make wound care less intrusive, but it should also significantly reduce the amount of time that doctors have to dedicate to clinical inspections.

"This hi-tech dressing will generate significant savings in healthcare costs, due to reduced clinical inspection time and shorter hospital stays as a result of faster wound healing," said Fleming Medical CEO, Mark Fleming.

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