Stephen Barnes and John Viator

Principal Investigators

Stephen Barnes, MD

Department of Surgery

John Viator, PhD

Department of Bioengineering

Stephen Barnes, MD, (left)
and John Viator, PhD

A photoacoustic instrument for depth profiling and imaging of a burn to aid wound management decisions and debridement

There are an estimated 500,000 cases of burn injury that require medical attention in the United States every year. This number gives rise to an estimated $4 billion annual cost. Early and accurate determination of burn depth is crucial in deciding which steps are taken to treat a burn wound. Currently, clinical observation, an inexact science, is the standard method for determining burn depth. Although it is an accurate predictor of full-thickness burns, it is only 50 percent accurate in the diagnosis of partial thickness burns. A method that could objectively determine the extent of burn damage would provide clinicians with a valuable tool in the monitoring and diagnosis of burn wounds.

Furthermore, if a depth profile of the wound were available such that necrotic tissue was differentiated from reversibly damaged or viable tissue, early and accurate excision of the burn wound would be possible, an important factor in the treatment of partial thickness butns. The principal investigators are developing a noninvasive method based on laser induced ultrasound to immediately and unambiguously determine burn depth so that precise excision can be performed. This guided precision will allow maximum preservation of subsurface epithelial structures that are responsible for healing.