The Advanced Detector Centre sits within the Semiconductor Materials and Devices group within EEE and was set up in 2010 by Prof. Chee Hing Tan, Prof. John David, Dr. Jo Shien Ng and Dr. Jon Willmot. The work that has won the award was a collaborative project between academics from The University of Sheffield and Prof. Charmaine Childs from Sheffield Hallam University.

SADC JWC Awards picture

Matt Davies, Prof. Charmaine Childs, Dr. Jon Willmot and Richard Dulcamara (BSM Medial - one of the sponsors of the event)

The thermal imaging work on Cesarean wounds is part of an overall project addressing issues in the area of surgical site infection (SSI), specifically the relationship between temperature and likelihood of SSI. This is achieved by thermally imaging the wound area and using a tailored computer algorithm to give accurate predictions of infection probability.

The objective of the research is to give a new and more effective diagnostic tool to medical professionals. Currently infection is tested for once the symptoms are apparent i.e pus or discharge is visible or the patient reports discomfort. Cultures can be taken from a wound to check for infection once it has taken hold but there are very few reliable methods for prediction of infection. Visual inspection is the most common and simplest method of determining whether or not a wound might be or become infected. However, it is often the case that a healthy looking wound may go onto develop infection. The current treatment relies on antibiotics to treat the infection and some patients with healthy wounds receive antibiotics that are not needed, simply as a precautionary measure. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to bacterial resistance, which is of pressing concern in medicine.

Matt Davies, Optoelectronic Researcher at the ADC, says ‘Thermal imaging does not give an x-ray view of a wound, but it tells a story about the tissue and vasculature which can show us what is or is not happening in and around a wound in a more telling way than a traditional visual inspection. By using these thermal images, we have developed, and are working to improve, a piece of software that will complement the existing forms of infection diagnosis to reduce over-prescription and improve patients well-being through prediction and early diagnosis. This should have the knock-on effect of reduced workload on GPs visited by postoperative patients concerned about their wounds and reduced readmissions to hospitals.

We are still working to improve the accuracy of our algorithm by testing it on larger groups and different types of wound. We have also been working on a prototype hand-held thermal imaging device that would incorporate the algorithm that could be implemented in hospitals. This would be used by nurses to monitor wound development and could even be taken to the domestic environment for check-ups and monitoring of healing progression.’

The ADC are opening up a new area of research for the centre which will pave the way for it to contribute novel semiconductor sensors to the field of medicine. Recognition of this world leading work via bodies like the Journal Wound Care Awards helps to raise awareness of the ADC’s achievements and its future positive impact on healthcare provision.