In a feasibility study, a novel low-level light therapy was effective in treating digital ulcers in patients with systemic sclerosis, and could represent a new treatment approach for a range of difficult-to-treat wounds, including diabetic ulcers.
“We believe this technology is a game changer. The implications are huge,” said Dr. Michael Hughes, lead researcher on the feasibility study, in a press release on July 26, 2018.
Dr. Hughes is a consultant rheumatologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, U.K., a specialist centre for scleroderma.
“Ulcers cause much distress to patients—and current treatments are costly to the NHS (National Health Service) and problematic for patients who can only receive the treatments in hospital,” Dr. Hughes said. The press release notes that current light therapy for ulcers utilizes lasers, must be administered in hospital, and requires patients to take blood pressure lowering medications. The new technology is said to be inexpensive, practical, and could be administered in the patient’s own home.
In the study, published in Journal of Dermatological Treatment (June 4, 2018, online ahead of print), investigators described a custom-built light system built using infrared (850 nm), red (660 nm) and violet (405 nm) LEDs.
Eight patients with a total of 14 digital ulcers were treated using the light system. Their ulcers were exposed to exposures of 10J/square cm in 15-minute sessions twice a week for three weeks, with follow-up at weeks four and eight. Safety concerns were documented as well as the patients’ opinions on feasibility, time to deliver, and pain on a 0 to 100 visual analogue scale were recorded.
After treatment, there was an average 83% improvement in the ulcers, with no side-effects. As well, all the patients said the treatment ‘took just the right amount of time’ and was ‘feasible.’ The average pain on the visual scale was also low.
“There are future possibilities as well: we think this device could be easily adapted to monitor ulcers remotely using cameras,” said Dr. Hughes, in the release. “They could also be programmed to recognize different parts of the body so that the treatment is given accurately.”
“In the next six to 12 months we shall be refining the machine and within 12 months we hope to be trialling it on diabetic ulcers.”