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This battery-powered applicator is the first portable and potentially wearable device to heal wounds with low-frequency ultrasound. (Credit: Drexel University)

Chronic wounds affect up to 6 million patients per year in the United States. Because of their high prevalence, chronic wounds are a significant economic burden to the U.S. healthcare system. Researchers have developed a battery-powered applicator that is the first portable and potentially wearable device to heal wounds with low-frequency ultrasound. The inexpensive, portable instrument can speed up slow-healing injuries and is safe enough for patients to use at home.

The device heals by sending low-frequency — 20 kilohertz (kHz) — ultrasonic sound waves directly to the chronic wound. While the healing potential of ultrasound to reduce swelling in injury is well known, high energy levels are not optimal for treating damaged tissue over long periods of time. The device operates at a level of energy much lower than the ultrasound units used to monitor pregnancy.

Once the device is fully developed, the applicator may be applied directly to the wound using a thin piece of tegaderm, gel, and medical tape. Then, with the flip of switch, the palm-sized battery pack is turned on, driving the set of transducers inside the device to create acoustic energy and begin the wound-healing process.

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