Electronic Sutures Heal Surgical Wounds Faster

Dennis Faas's picture

The surgical process of stitching up a patient will soon receive a hi-tech makeover. The change could reduce the chance of infection and decrease healing times.

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois have created the first ever 'electronic suture' (a stitch used by doctors and surgeons to hold tissue together).

The special suture contains ultrathin silicon sensors integrated on polymer or silk strips that penetrate the skin and knot, just like standard medical stitches.

To create the 'electronic sutures,' the researchers first use chemicals to cut an ultrathin film of silicon from a wafer. Then, with a rubber stamp, they lift off and transfer these 'nanomembranes' to polymer or silk strips.

Lastly, they set metal electrodes and wires on top of the strips and encapsulate the entire device in an epoxy coating. (Source: technologyreview.com)

Infection Indicated at First Sign

These new kinds of sutures provide at least two benefits, compared with conventional ones.

First, the electronic stitches react to heat. Sensors attached to the sutures can report when the heat coming off a patient's wound is greater than expected, thereby indicating to doctors the presence of infection.

This allows the patient to begin taking antibiotics much earlier than usual, preventing the infection from spreading and making it easier for doctors to eliminate it.

Controlled Heat Speeds Recovery

The second benefit pertains to heat as well. The electronic sutures contain gold filaments that can heat up when attached to a power source.

When a wound is exposed to an external heat source, the healing process is enhanced. Experts believe that having a controlled heat source in or near the wound should help the patient to a faster recovery. (Source: yahoo.com)

MC10, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup company, is already working to commercialize the technology in the near future. However, for now electronic sutures are undergoing additional testing, and are not in everyday use.

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