New technology helps identify bedsores early
Actor Christopher Reeve died of complications from a bedsore, or pressure ulcer, in 2004, and hundreds of thousands of people have died similar deaths since then. Now a sub-epidermal moisture, or SEM, scanner that can detect bedsores before they’re visible is in trials here in the US and some of its technology came from the Mars Rover.
Laurie Rappl has been in a wheelchair since breaking her back 36 years ago.
“In those 36 years, I’ve had four deep pressure ulcers. Deep meaning they went all the way through the skin, and through the muscle down to the bone,” said Rappl.
Laurie took a year in bed to recover each time. Bedsores form when pressure on soft tissue blocks blood flow and they’re hard to detect because they start on the inside of the body.
“So the damage occurring underneath the skin surface, you can’t see it, but this can,” said Martin Burns, the CEO of Bruin Biometrics.
Bruin biometrics’ SEM scanner measures increases in moisture under the skin; a warning sign of inflammation and potentially, pressure ulcers.
“When you take a series of readings over the site that’s at risk for developing an ulcer, we can give you a calculation that says that patient has tissue that’s compromised,” said burns.
Wound care specialist Henry Okonkwo is running a trial of the scanner. He gets readings in a second and anything under point-six is fine.
“It’s not a subjective assessment; it’s actually an objective assessment. That makes a huge difference in your ability to decide to make good clinical decisions on how you should intervene,” said Okonkwo.
The scanner can detect cases four to ten days before ulcers appear.
“A device that could tell me that what i was doing was working or that what i was doing wasn’t working and you better jump on it right now is a game changer,” said Rappl.
The SEM scanner is being used in the UK, Portugal, Spain and Canada and its dropped incidents of bedsores from five percent to zero in some hospitals, saving tens of thousands of dollars.
This could be significant in the US, where it can cost up to 152,000 dollars to treat one patient with bedsores for a year. Bruin Biometrics expects to file with the FDA early this year, making the scanners available by years end.