People suffering from chronic non-healing wounds are usually recommended exercises by their doctor or physiotherapist to strengthen muscles and improve circulation, which are vital for a healthy recovery. A new study suggests that low-level electrostimulation therapy could also be used to treat such wounds as this therapy has previously been shown to increase metabolic functioning in treated tissues through increased mitochondrial activity in skeletal muscle tissue (in mice). The studies listed below describe some of the research related to electrostimulation therapies and wound healing that is available currently.
What equipment was used to treat these wounds, and where was the electrical stimulation applied?
The electrical stimulation was provided by dry electrodes placed on or near the wound (or wounds). The electrodes were connected to an electrical stimulator (this was the same for both groups of participants) which applied a “low-level direct current” (or DC) to the tissues (electrical current is the flow of electrical energy). The electric current used was between 50 and 100 microamperes (or μA – one microampere is 0.001 ampere). The electrodes were connected to the electrical stimulator either by wires or wirelessly.
How does the electrical stimulation work on wound healing?
The electric current applied by the dry electrodes in the wounds stimulates cells called fibroblasts (or fibroblasts) in the underlying tissue to produce a greater amount of collagen (type I and type III collagen) and this encourages granulation tissue to form. Collagen is a protein that helps to repair wounds by forming fibers that correspond to the structure of tissues originally in place.
What is electrical current?
Electric current is the flow of electrical energy from one place to another place.
How long did it take to see healing?
The study authors reported that participants treated with the electrical stimulation had wounds that healed in approximately 30 days, whereas the control group had wounds that healed in 60 days (this is a significant difference).
How many participants were involved in the study?
The researchers recruited 22 participants; 11 people received low-level electrical stimulation and 11 people did not receive any electrical stimulation. All participants had chronic, non-healing wounds (or a single wound) on their lower legs and were aged between 50 and 80. All of the participants had diabetes mellitus (or DM)
The electrical stimulation increased blood flow, fibroblast activity, collagen, and granulation tissue production, which accelerated wound healing. Overall, wound healing progressed approximately 40% faster in the participants treated with low-level electrical stimulation compared to the untreated participants. The researchers concluded that applying low-level direct current to chronic (non-healing) wounds on the legs of people with diabetes and to chronic non-healing pressure sores may increase the rate of wound healing.