For many people, the old adage is true: time heals all wounds. But for over 3 million people in the U.S. a simple scrape or cut can become a chronic wound.
“We describe a chronic wound as a wound that hasn’t healed in 8 weeks,” said Michael Weingarten, a vascular surgeon at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.
People most at risk for chronic wounds are those with other conditions such as vein problems and diabetes. Their wounds can take months or even years to heal. Now medical doctors and biomedical engineers are using ultrasound to speed up slow-healing injuries.
“Ultrasound has been around for a long time…and there’s some evidence that it may actually stimulate the wound to heal,” explained Weingarten.
If a person had an injury, the device would be placed on the wound, where low-frequency and low-intensity ultrasound would be applied for about 15 minutes.
The researchers tested this method on 20 people over a four-week period.
“We had statistically improved…reduction in wound size,” said Joshua Samuels, a biomedical engineer at Drexel University.
One wound in particular that the scientists dealt with saw dramatic improvements after four ultrasound treatments. Low-intensity ultrasound is safer and can be used for longer periods of time, researchers said.
Scientists are not exactly sure how the ultrasound helps to hasten the wound's healing. One hypothesis is that the ultrasound could be stimulating new cells to grow. More testing is being done to determine exactly how it works. For maximum results, researchers said that the treatments should be used along with compression therapy.
Researchers plan to make the device more compact and convenient. “We thought hey, let’s make a small portable version that the patient could even wear home,” said Samuels.
This research was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV. She has produced over 600 video news segments on science, technology, engineering and math in the past 13 years for Inside Science TV and its predecessor, Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science.
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