SEM Scanner detects pressure sores before they're visible

Care and Nursing Essentials editor Victoria Galligan spoke to the team at Bruin Biometrics, who are behind the SEM Scanner. The scanner can detect pressure damage before it is visible to the naked eye…

Could you outline the workings of the SEM Scanner - how does it detect the moisture under the skin?

The SEM Scanner is a, hand-held portable device that has been designed to measure sub-epidermal moisture (SEM) (also known as localised oedema) which is an invisible precursor to the development of incipient pressure damage.

The analogy we like to use is one of an oil tanker moving through water. The oil tanker is the actual damage to the skin and tissue, but the big wave in front of the oil tanker is the leading indicator of damage.  The Scanner therefore gives a leading warning of skin and tissue being in trouble even before you are able to see that trouble developing on the skin’s surface.

The SEM Scanner measures to a depth of approximately 4mm and through a series of readings on the sacrum or heel calculates a Delta value indicating the health of the tissues.

A SEM delta value of <0.5 is indicative of low site-specific SEM variance, suggesting the tissue is healthy, values >0.5 reflects increased site-specific SEM variance suggesting developing pressure damage.

 SEM ScannerHow early can it detect ulcers and how does this affect treatment and healing times? 

The SEM Scanner has been found, when used as an adjunct to current standard of care, to detect tissue damage on the sacrum and heels five days (median)(1) before it becomes visible on the skin surface. Assessment takes from one minute to under 10 minutes (approximately) and so is easily incorporated into existing clinical workflows. 

The SEM scanner has been proven to result in an 86.2% reduction in Hospital Acquired Pressure Ulcers(2). As one pressure ulcer can lead to an additional five to eight in-patient days3, use of the SEM Scanner therefore not only helps to keep patients free from harm, but also frees up NHS beds, reduces nursing time to treat patients with PUs, and saves Care Facilities money.

Which healthcare providers will use the SEM Scanner – in a hospital, GP surgery, in nursing homes etc?

All of the above! To date in the UK alone, more than 20 different healthcare facilities have experience of using BBI’s SEM Scanner within a number of different settings including: 

  • Medical 
  • Orthopedic  
  • Elderly Care 
  • Intensive Care 
  • Vascular Care 
  • End of Life Care 
  • Surgical 
  • Stroke / Rehabilitation 

Could you outline a case study or trial which has been successful?

Virgin Care, which provides services to the NHS, experienced a 95% drop in the pressure ulcer rate during a service redesign evaluation of the SEM Scanner at Farnham Community Hospital in Surrey.(4) 

Marie Curie, Newcastle, the first hospice in the UK to gain experience with the SEM Scanner, revealed a 47% reduction in hospice acquired pressure ulcer (HAPU) incidence rate in the first six months of use (November 2017 – April 2018). Use of the SEM Scanner enabled the team to react earlier than when had they relied purely on the Waterlow Risk Assessment and visual skin inspections. (5)

Does the SEM Scanner require training, or can most medical professionals use it?

The SEM Scanner can be used by most, if not all medical professionals and health care assistants. It has been designed by a clinician for clinicians and as such has received high-ratings for ease of use and implementation into workflow to promote coordination of care. 

This was substantiated in the Marie Curie experience, where 92% of the staff that participated (which included including staff nurses, healthcare assistants and Ward Sisters) said the SEM Scanner is easy to learn(5). 

What is the cost of the SEM Scanner and how do people place an order?

The SEM Scanner costs £5,835 to purchase.  Rental options are also available. Use of the Scanner delivers cost savings within the first year of use.

To place an order, contact the BBI sales team on or call 01625 238895.

1. Okonkwo H. et al. (2018) Evaluation of a novel device using capacitance of the detection of early pressure ulcers (PU), a multi-site longitudinal study. Accepted and presented at NPUAP 2018

2. Data with FDA for review as part of BBI’s De Novo request
3. Bennett G et al. (2004). The cost of pressure ulcers in the UK. Age and Ageing. 33(3) 230-235
4. Littlefield. S., Kellett N. [2015] Results from a New Pressure Ulcer Prevention Bundle. Accepted and presented at Wounds UK 2016. Presented to EWMA Conference, Bremen, Germany, 11-13 May." 
5. Raine G. (2018). Prevention, Prevention, Prevention; Tackling the Number One Patient Safety Issue. Presented at Patient Safety Conference, Manchester, UK. 9th July 2018