In a small clinical study, researchers administered a new method for treating chronic wounds using a novel ultrasound applicator that can be worn like a band-aid, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported last week. The applicator delivers low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound directly to wounds, and was found to significantly accelerate healing in 5 patients with venous ulcers. The technology was developed with funding from NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).
In an article to be published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, researchers at Drexel University report that patients who received low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound treatment during their weekly check-up, in addition to standard compression therapy, showed a net reduction in wound size after 4 weeks. Patients who didn't receive ultrasound treatment had an average increase in wound size during the same time period.
The team's clinical findings were corroborated by their in vitro studies in which mouse fibroblasts—cells that play an active role in wound healing—experienced on average a 32% increase in cell metabolism and a 40% increase in cell proliferation compared with control cells 24 hours after receiving 20 kHz ultrasound for 15 minutes.
The researchers noted that studies with larger numbers of patients are needed to confirm that the technology is both effective and safe to use. If it is deemed so, patients with other types of chronic wounds such as diabetic or pressure ulcers may also benefit from therapeutic ultrasound.
Venous ulcers account for 80% of all chronic wounds found on lower extremities, NIH said, and affect approximately 500,000 US patients annually, a number that's expected to increase as obesity rates climb. It's estimated that treatment for venous ulcers costs the US health care system over $1 billion dollars per year. Standard treatment for venous ulcers involves controlling swelling, taking care of the wound by keeping it moist, preventing infection, and compression therapy.
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