Skin ulcers can heal much quicker with the use of low-intensity ultrasound, according to new research.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Biomedical Science, found that healing can be accelerated by up to a third. The findings could potentially save the NHS more than £3.1 billion a year.
Improving the healing rate of skin ulcers would be excellent news for people with diabetes. Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can cause diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), which makes it difficult to notice small wounds, particularly on the feet. This is compounded by another diabetic complication: the slow healing of wounds.
If feet aren’t properly looked after, these factors can combine to cause foot ulcers, which in many cases require amputation.
This study suggest that using low-intensity ultrasound could help these ulcers to heal much more quickly, thereby reducing the need for amputation. This is valuable not only in terms of patient health, but economically: by lowering the cost of amputation for the NHS, money can be reinvested in other areas of healthcare.
That said, no treatment can fully replace good foot care. Prevention is better than even the best treatment.
“Skin ulcers are excruciatingly painful for patients and in many cases can only be resolved by amputation of the limb.
“Using ultrasound wakes up the cells and stimulates a standard healing process. Because it is speeding up the normal processes, the treatment doesn’t carry the risk of side effects that often associated with drug treatments.
“Now that we have proven the effectiveness of ultrasound we need to explore the signal further. We have found that the ultrasound signal we currently use is effective, but it is possible that by refining the treatment we could improve the effects even further.
“Because ultrasound is relatively risk free we could expect to see it in broad clinical use within three or four years.”
The study was published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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