i-Stitches Will Reduce Infection

An innovative suture material that emits a glow during medical imaging could offer a potential solution for internal stitches and mesh implant procedures. This material has been designed in collaboration with medical professionals to help prevent surgical site infections, which are one of the most prevalent medical infections, affecting 2-4% of patients post-surgery. In particular, the high rate of infections in vaginal mesh implant procedures led to a ban on the procedure in Australia in 2018.

The suture material has shown strong antimicrobial properties and remains visible in CT scans for up to three weeks. According to Dr. Shadi Houshyar, the lead author of the study and Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, no commercially available suture product has these combined properties.

The suture material was developed by a multidisciplinary team from RMIT University, which included nano-engineering, biomedical, and textile experts, as well as a practicing surgeon. The team utilized RMIT’s state-of-the-art textile manufacturing facility to create their proof-of-concept material. The unique properties of the suture come from the combination of iodine and carbon nano dots. Carbon nano dots are naturally fluorescent and can be adjusted to emit varying levels of brightness, making them highly visible in medical imaging.

Attaching iodine to these dots enhances their antimicrobial properties and X-ray visibility. According to Houshyar, carbon nano dots are safe, affordable, and easily produced from natural ingredients in a laboratory setting. The versatility of the material allows for tailored solutions, such as biodegradable stitches, permanent sutures, or even adhesive on one side only, as required. The goal of the project is to provide practical solutions for surgeons, and their involvement in the study reflects this aim.

Justin Yeung, a consultant colorectal surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Melbourne, was a part of the study. According to him, the new suture material addresses a major challenge faced by surgeons in accurately locating internal meshes on CT scans. The material will help improve the identification of symptoms, reduce the incidence of mesh infections, and aid in precise preoperative planning, if removal is necessary.

The use of this material, particularly as vaginal mesh, has the potential to improve surgery outcomes and quality of life for a large number of women by reducing the need for infected mesh removal. It can also lead to shorter surgery times and increased surgical accuracy by enabling accurate visualization of mesh location on preoperative imaging.

According to Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin from RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, the next step for the research is pre-clinical trials. She believes that the new suture material has great potential, particularly in vaginal mesh implants and similar procedures, and is eager to collaborate with industry partners to further develop it.

The proof-of-concept material was produced using the leading textile manufacturing facilities at RMIT’s Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion. The research team has received seed funding from RMIT to produce larger suture samples for use in pre-clinical trials.

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