A Texas company is developing an innovative medical device to reduce the risk of infection during surgery.

Many surgical procedures leave patients with a high risk of infection, especially after prosthesis implant operations like hip replacements. These can be life threatening and infections contracted in hospitals, such as Staphylococci and MRSA, are becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

With many resistant to antibiotics, infections also represent an enormous cost burden. Treating one patient for post surgery infection can cost up to US$100,000. Not to mention the patient's considerable physical, emotional, and economic hardships. Diabetics and the elderly are at greater postoperative risk and present even more of a challenge.

Nimbic Systems believes the solution lies in the prevention of wound site contamination.

The company has created an Air Barrier System (ABS) which aims to reduce infection by providing a cocoon of highly purified air around the incision site during surgery.

The ABS produces a clean air cocoon measuring 20" x 6" x 2" (Image: Nimbic Systems)

The simple mobile unit dispenses purified air through a flexible nozzle which can be fixed adjacent to the patient's incision. It then potentially shields the wound by producing a non turbulent flow of filtered air, controlling the environment and reducing the presence of infection causing microorganisms.

The pilot trial on hip replacements showed the ABS reduced infection at the incision site by 84 percent. Further trials are planned for spinal and femoral procedures.

The causes of all postoperative infections are unknown. According to Dr Terry Clyburn of Texas University, surgical staff shed up to 10,000 skin cells per minute during operative procedures. If any contain harmful bacteria and land on the patient's wound, the potential for infection increases.

Researchers at Nimbic Systems believe if airborne contamination is taken out of play in the OR, the risk of dangerous and costly infections is greatly decreased.

Sources: Nimbic Systems via LiveScience