Three engineering students from the University of Alberta have developed a mobile app that tracks the progress of a healing wound.
The app calculates whether treatments are working as they should based on descriptions of size, depth and shape as well as more subjective impressions of pain and irritation, says programmer Connor Povoledo.
Accurate tracking can predict infection and other complications and allow patients, especially in remote areas, to decide if urgent care is needed.
“Wound tracking in general is currently somewhat archaic,” says Povoledo, a third-year biomedical engineering student, who developed the app with students Jacob Damant and Daniel Brick.
“If you put a wound in front of a doctor, who sits there and watches it until it heals, he might give you a splendid analysis. But that’s not realistic,” he says.
“For the most part, wound care ends at the hospital gates, perhaps with a follow-up visit. Automation seemed like a no-brainer.
The team works on the application under the guidance of a biomedical engineer Robert Burellinventor of silver-based metal Acticoat dressingconsidered one of the most innovative advances in the history of wound care.
Last fall, Burrell told students about his horse, which suffered a leg injury on his farm. He thought it would be helpful if there was a way to measure the wound in three dimensions over time to see how well it was healing.
“A lot of wounds are really just two-dimensional, maybe scratching a bit of skin,” Burrell says. “But with a deeper wound, it actually has to fill in from below. The volume of the wound should change as part of healing.
Povoledo said he might be able to develop a program to track injuries in three dimensions and got to work designing the AI.
Burrell shared Povoledo’s proposal with other scholars, researchers and surgeons, all of whom felt it had potential. The team then presented the proposal at a Montreal burn conference last December, where it was enthusiastically received.
The team continued to work on the app with funding from U of A graduates and philanthropists Jim and Marlene Sorensenrefining 3D capabilities and adding to the AI database.
The big breakthrough came at a conference in Phoenix in early April, where the team presented a business pitch to a judging panel in a Shark Tank-style competition.
“The students were a little concerned because there were other companies out there — startups and bigger companies like 3M, all trying to track injuries in different ways,” Burrell says.
But when the team took stock of what their competitors had, it only boosted their confidence.
“It actually made the boys pretty ecstatic,” Burrell says. They faced 22 other teams in the competition, coming away with first place.
They now increase the size of the app’s database, allowing the AI to recognize specific types of wounds such as burns, lacerations, and ulcers.
Povoledo continues to work on AI development, while Damant works on 3D analysis.
Once the team secures more funding, they hope to begin clinical trials, tracking human injuries in real time.
Burrell calls the app a “big step forward” in wound care because it’s primarily designed for use at home.
“Eventually, when this app has been available for a year, you’ll have millions of images in the database,” Burrell says. “You can ask if it is a pressure ulcer, a diabetic ulcer, a laceration or a surgical wound, and what should be measured? »
As for Burrell’s horse? The leg injury seemed to get bigger at first, Burrell said. But after applying his Acticoat dressing – now distributed worldwide – he healed quickly without complications.