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Smart Sutures Help Catch Infections Early

It’s always amazing to see what scientists in the medical field come up with when working to improve healthcare practices and create new devices.

Following hot on the heels of the recent FDA approval of the first electronic pill for humans, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed electronic sutures that, in addition to the wound-closing benefits of traditional sutures, contain sensors that allow physicians to get information about the condition of the patient’s wounds. Though these smart sutures are still in an experimental phase, this newcomer to the “light surgery” field may soon be found in every doctor’s toolbox.

After being laced through the skin, these new smart sutures begin to measure the temperature in the wounded area. If an infection is detected through an elevated temperature, the sutures can then deliver heat with a low-level electric current known to accelerate the healing process. Though the device is patented, its integrated system of silicon membranes, gold electrodes, and wires just a few hundred nanometers thick is not yet ready to be commercialized. Just as with the electronic pills, the objective is to generate a continuous flow of data that will help both patients and physicians make the right decisions at the right time, hopefully improving the healing and recovery process.

This innovation in everyday medical practices is a good example of how important data collection is when trying to develop more proactive solutions to help patients. These pieces of information are real assets that are useful for not only serious conditions, but also for more minor medical procedures – such as suturing a wound and ensuring it remains infection free.

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