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Surgical system uses 'cocoon of air' to keep incision sites clean


October 17, 2011

The Air Barrier System (ABS) which aims to reduce infection by providing a cocoon of highly purified air around the incision site during surgery (Photo: Nimbic Systems, Inc.)

The Air Barrier System (ABS) which aims to reduce infection by providing a cocoon of highly purified air around the incision site during surgery (Photo: Nimbic Systems, Inc.)

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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


This begs the question why inflatable operating \"rooms\" around patients go un-utilized. Encapsulating a patient with a plastic barrier would maintain operation sterility far better than cleaning up theaters repeatedly. Super-glueing the patient into an inflation \'hood\' with needed instruments pre-inserted or via an air lock, with surgeon\'s gloves protruding into the space similar to those seen in handling of radioactive items would preclude any infection. While I\'m at it, glueing onto the patient a simple zipper could close wounds better than any artful (prehistoric) hand stitching, certainly better than clumsy staples administered by exhausted medical students, as the cut tissues would match exactly. Such a zipper could open both the patient\'s skin and the single-use inflated operating hood together. That way, varying air pressure appropriately could resist bleeding, out-gassing could be analyzed for dx currently not done or even thought of, or improve insertion of instrumentation. Introduction of anesthetic or other gases via the inflating atmosphere could have other therapeutic effects as well.


Wow! Your comment makes for/deserves to be expanded into whole article about technology which is more exciting than the original one.


re; TogetherinParis

It would be more cost effective to simply put the surgical team into biological containment suits, with disposable gloves.

Sterilizing the operating room, and equipment with gamma rays would be more effective than chemicals but admittedly offers up problems of its own, although they are mostly political.


Biological containment suits are not noted for their flexibility or ease of sight/sound/tactile monitoring of patient and environment, etc.

Perhaps robotic slaved devices could be kept sterile more easily.

Brian Hall

re; Brian Hall

The difficulties to overcome with bio-containment suits are simple compared to robo doctors, and nurses. But it has occurred to me that if they ever get a full range of tele-surgery equipment fully approved it may become common for the medical staff to be in the next room.

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