‘Gel made from patient’s own blood could rapidly heal foot ulcers’
Chronic foot ulcers treated with gel made from patient’s own blood are more likely to heal than those treated traditionally, according to a new study.
The study, reported in the journal Advances in Skin and Wound Care found that gel made out of a patient’s blood could rapidly speed up the healing of chronic wounds.
Many of the 2.2 million wounds treated by the National Health Service (NHS) each year are open wounds or sores that develop on the skin of the foot in patients with diabetes.
These hard-to-treat ulcers are caused by a combination of factors, including peripheral neuropathy, where chronic exposure to high blood sugar damages nerves, leading to reduced sensation in the feet, which means patients feel little pain and so injuries go unnoticed and may worsen and become infected before being detected.
The study found that diabetes also damages blood vessels, while the oxygen-rich blood and immune cells that are required for the skin to mend itself are not delivered.
Meanwhile, previous research had shown that up to 40 percent of diabetic ulcers take at least three months to heal, and in 14 percent of cases, wounds are still present after a year.
Every year in the United Kingdom, around 5,000 people have a leg or foot amputation as a result.
However, the new gel uses a technique called platelet-rich plasma, which is already used to treat tendon injuries and has recently been tried as a way to help improve pain and movement in knee arthritis.
To make the gel, around 20ml of blood, that is, one-and-a-half tablespoon is taken from the patient and spun for a minute in a centrifuge, which separates plasma, a clear serum, from other elements in the blood.
Plasma is rich in platelets, which are important for clotting and contains proteins called growth factors that help with healing.
The spun plasma is then mixed with other compounds to turn it into a gel, a process that takes around 30 seconds. The gel is immediately spread over the wound and a dressing put on top.
A new trial, where patients were treated twice a week with fresh gel for the first fortnight and then once weekly afterwards, found it to be superior to usual care, in which wounds are cleaned and covered.