Smart sensor wound care on horizon that may reduce diabetic amputations

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26 Feb 2019 11:00:00.000

University of Nottingham researchers have secured a major grant to develop a smart wound dressing embedded with optical fibre sensors to assess whether affected tissue is healing well or is infected.  

The new disposable dressing could have a significant impact on patient care and healthcare costs for wound management, which stand at £4.5-£5.1bn a year – more than 4 per cent of the NHS budget.  

Diabetic foot ulcers represent a large proportion of this cost – standing at nearly £1bn - and these hard-to-heal wounds are the initial focus of the project. Better wound monitoring has the potential to reduce the 7,000 lower limb amputations that affect people with diabetes in England each year. 

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“Thanks to a £902,524 grant from the Medical Research Council, we can develop a real step change in the care of chronic wounds. Our smart wound dressing incorporates optical fibre sensors which will remotely monitor multiple biomarkers associated with wound management such as temperature, humidity and pH, providing a more complete picture of the healing process. 

“At present, regular wound redressing is the only way to visually assess healing rates, however this exposure can encourage infection, disrupt progress and creates a huge economic burden on NHS resources. Instead our technology will indicate the optimum time to change the dressing and send out an alert if intervention is required with infected or slow-healing wounds to improve patient care and cut the number of healthcare appointments needed,” explains Professor Steve Morgan, Director of the Centre for Healthcare Technologies and Royal Society Industry Fellow at the University.  

Developed and validated by the Centre in laboratory tests, the proposed sensors will be fabricated in very thin (~100um diameter), lightweight, flexible, low-cost optical fibres. This versatile platform will then be incorporated into fabric that will look and feel the same as a conventional wound dressing. 

The dressing will be connected to a standalone, reusable opto-electronic unit to constantly evaluate the wound’s status. The unit will transmit and receives light to and from the sensors; relaying information to both the patient and clinicians. This will be achieved by wireless transfer linked to a mobile phone.  

Although the dressing will cost marginally more than the average dressing, the higher initial cost will be offset by fewer dressing changes or clinical visits and reduced healing time.

A 10 per cent reduction in costs associated with visits and appointments would provide £300m annual savings to the NHS alone.  

The project will last 34 months in total - 24 months on product development and 10 months of clinical evaluation and chronic wound patient feedback.  

The project team comprises: 

University of Nottingham 
Dr Sergiy Korposh, Dr Ricardo Correia, Professor Barrie Hayes-Gill 
University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust: 
Professor Fran Game 
Nottingham University Hospitals Trust: 
Professor William Jeffcoate  
Dr Kamal Chokkalingam 
Alison Musgrove 
Professor Dan Clark 
Industry Partner: 
Footfalls and Heartbeats (UK) 


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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the  2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

Centre for Healthcare Technologies (CHT) is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) incorporating CHEATA. Winner of NHS England’s Chief Scientific Officer’s Award 2018 for ‘Developing partnerships to improve outcomes’, the CHT brings together academics, clinicians, patients and the med-tech industry to tackle healthcare challenges, driving innovative ideas and cutting-edge science into clinical practice. Launched in February 2016, it draws together the multi-million-pound portfolio of the University’s healthcare technologies research, with over 120 academics and clinical academics, and builds on the University’s long-established partnership with NUH, to support and enhance medical device research and development for patient benefit. 


Story credits

More information is available from Steve Morgan, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, on 0115 951 5570 or

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager

Email:  Phone: +44 (0)115 846 7156  Location: University Park

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