Electrical Current Heals Chronic Wounds
By Meredith Guinness HealthScout Reporter
Chronic wounds treated with very low electrical
currents heal more quickly than they do with standard treatments, a new study
Researchers studying the ElectroRegenesis
Therapy Device (ERTD) say it stimulates the body's natural ability to heal
wounds related to amputations, long-term ulcers, diabetic lesions, circulation
problems, paralysis and even advanced age. Several patients -- some of whom had
had wounds for five years -- showed significant healing in just one or two
The promising study, presented recently at the
8th International Congress of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Las
Vegas, may spell painless relief for the estimated 2 percent of Americans living
with wounds that don't heal.
"We don't completely understand why it
works," says Dr. Alfred J. Koonin, clinical study monitor for the device.
"What we do understand is that the device seems to act as an ultra-powerful
antioxidant that knocks out infection, stimulates blood flow and encourages cell
And it also appears to help patients regardless
of their age, which can be a factor with conventional treatments such as
dressings, gel packs, topical medication and surgical procedures, says Koonin,
director of research for the American Institute of Regeneration in Los Angeles.
Chronic wounds are those that show no sign of
healing in four weeks or have not significantly healed in eight weeks, says
Kristin Winbigler, director of the Wound Care Center at Stamford Hospital in
Connecticut. As the population ages and people live longer lives, chronic wounds
become a significant problem and more wound-care centers are opening across the
United States, she says.
"As people age, the body tends to break
down," she says. "And with diabetics, there is a high glucose level in
the tissue that interferes with healing. When you or I might bump into
something, it would heal. For them, it's a bigger problem."
The study observed 25 wounds in patients ranging
in age from 20 to 75. For 23 minutes a day, they were wrapped in spongy, damp
bandages above and below the wound. The researchers then wrapped electrodes over
the bandages and attached them to the device, which delivered a low electrical
current similar to that present naturally in the body.
After 23 minutes, wraps were applied to their
feet and the treatment continued for three more hours. Most of the patients
received treatments five days a week for about two weeks.
The average rate of healing was about
three-quarters of a centimeter each day of treatment. Many of the wounds that
had not responded to conventional therapy for months healed within a few weeks,
Koonin says the therapy kick starts the body's
natural energy source, which is essential to healing.
"In layman's terms, it takes an electrical
system that's out of whack and sort of normalizes it," he says.
Koonin says some of the machine's effects are a
little mystifying. While conventional therapies often require surgical or
chemical removal of any dead tissue before treatment begins, dead tissue seemed
to disappear after treatment with the device.
"It seemed to be reabsorbed by the body or
converted to new tissue. It's difficult to tell which," says Koonin.
"My own feeling is it was probably reabsorbed into the body, but we don't
A slight rash around the wound was the only
negative side effect noticed in some patients. But Koonin says the treatments
also seemed to have another positive side effect.
"Many of them got a little brighter,"
he says, particularly older patients, paraplegics and quadraplegics. "Their
appetites started to resume. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from an
antioxidant. It sort of cleans up the tissue. They felt better."'
Koonin believes the ERTD, which has a patent
pending, will have many applications. Some animal testing on spinal cord
injuries is being done and trials are planned to test its effects on severe
facial pain, shingles and poor circulation. He hopes the device will receive FDA
approval in the next few months.
Winbigler says wound-care centers offer a wide
range of therapies for people with chronic wounds. Though she has heard of ERTD,
she says her center and many others now favor more aggressive techniques,
including surgical methods, for fast healing.
What To Do
The incidence of chronic wounds and the demand
for new wound-care products are expected to increase in coming years. The market
for new therapies in wound-care management is expected to grow from $455 million
in 1999 to $2.4 billion in 2006, according to a report this month by industry
research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
Diabetics looking for more information on
preventing wounds and their complications can visit the American Diabetes
If you think this has a Frankenstein ring to it,
consider this HealthScout story on healing wounds with pig intestines.