Thermal wound imaging diagnosis reduces need for medication


The Advanced Detector Centre (ADC) is led by Professor Chee Hing Tan (Electronic and Electrical Engineering) focusing on projects involving optical light (such as UV or infrared) and translating fundamental research through to industrial or clinical application.

One such project is thermal imaging on Caesarean wounds, which is led by Dr Jon Willmott (under the ADC), to investigate the relationship between temperature and likelihood of surgical site infection (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 provide medical professionals with a new and more effective diagnostic tool.

Currently, infection is tested for one the symptoms are apparent, for example, when discharge is visible or when 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.

It is often the case that a healthy-looking wound may go on eto develop infection. The current treatment relies on antibodies to treat the infection and some pateints with healthy wounds receive antibiotics that are not needed as a precautionary measure. This can cause complications in itself, as overuse of antibiotics can lead to bacterial resistance, which is a serious concern.

Matt Davies, Optoelectric Researcher at the ADC, said: “By using these thermal images we have developed a piece of software that will complement the existing forms of infection diagnosis to reduce overprescription and improve patients’ well-being through prediction and early diagnosis.”

This project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, led by Charmain Childs from Sheffield Hallam University.

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