• wound healing assessment;
  • high resolution ultrasound imaging;
  • wound photography

Background/aims To compare two non-invasive techniques of assessing wound healing, photography and high resolution ultrasound (HRUS) scanning, in experimentally induced full-thickness human skin wounds.

Methods Punch biopsy wounds, 4 mm in diameter, were made aseptically through locally anaesthetised skin on the anterior (volar) surface of the non-dominant forearm, 3 cm below the base of the cubital fossa, of 20 human participants. The wounds were treated with a topical antibiotic and covered for 3 days with Mepore sterile dressings. Wound healing was assessed on post-operative days 3, 7, 14 and 21 from photographs and HRUS B-scans. All photographs were taken of the wound site and adjacent intact skin under standardised conditions. The prints obtained were examined visually and digitised. Digital HRUS B-scans were taken through the centre of the wound bed and the adjacent intact skin parallel to the epidermis. Using the scanner's calibrated linear measurement capability, the wound width was measured adjacent to the deep surface of the scab, at the base of the wound, and midway between these two levels.

Results The wound margins were more clearly defined in the HRUS scans than in the photographs of the wounds; in some of the latter the scab masked the wound margins. Changes in the surface width of the wound were affected by the time of scab dehiscence, which varied between volunteers. There was less individual variation in the width of the base of the wound, as measured from the HRUS scans.

Conclusions In contrast to photography, which allows recording of changes in the superficial aspect of the wound only, HRUS scanning permits the quantitative assessment of structural changes deep within the wound. Temporal changes in the width of the base of the wound can be used as an indication of the progress of repair.