By Kira | 3Ders
In the world of medical technology, 3D printing continues to lead the way in developing smart, efficient, and life-saving tools. Most recently, engineer Alex Berry, founder of Sutrue Ltd, has developed an automated medical stitching device that will enable doctors and surgeons to close wounds faster and with greater accuracy while minimizing the risk of needle-stick injuries.
Needle-stick injuries are a common yet terrifying problem amongst doctors, surgeons, and nurses, with two million healthcare workers affected every year. The injury occurs when the skin is accidentally punctured by a used hypodermic or suturing needle, and can lead to increased transmission of blood-borne diseases. Incidents resulting from suturing procedures account for at least 15% of all needle-stick injuries.
The Sutrue device is designed to contain the needle section of the suture within an enclosed plastic cartridge, greatly reducing the risk of injury.
Berry owes the implementation of his design to 3D printing. The engineer used hisForm 1+ 3D printer to quickly iterate through a series of prototype designs. Having the high-resolution rapid prototyping tool on his desktop meant that he could reduce his turnaround time from weeks to hours.
Conventionally, Berry had to send 3D models to an outside service bureau to be printed, wait for them to be delivered, make his modifications, and repeat the process all over again.
"It was about six months of work in a week," says Berry. And what used to cost £100 came down to £3.40. "It's a big difference."
There are up to 50 individual components inside each device. 3D printing allows these parts to be printed at 25 microns, the Form 1+'s highest resolution. Other parts, such as the casings and clip, are printed at 50 microns, which, according to Berry, is more than accurate enough. In addition, some of the rotating gears, which measure about 2.3 inches (6mm) in diameter, are also printed on the Form 1+.
The current prototype is powered by a motor in the handle. The needle, encased in its plastic cartridge, can be driven in a full circle at a speed of up to once per second. In addition, the tool features easy-to-use control buttons that either move the needle forward or backward in case of misalignment.
"With conventional suturing, you're responsible for the movement of the needle through the tissues," says Mr. Richard Trimlett, a cardiac surgeon at the Royal Brompton hospital who assists with the design and trial testing of the device. "That can often be a challenge because the angle at which you may want to rotate may not be in line with your instrument. Whereas this, the needle follows a perfect arc." The result is neater, more efficient, and less likely to cause tissue damage."
In addition to making the stitching procedure more safe, accurate, and efficient, the device empowers less experienced members of a surgical team to assist in wound closures, and has dental, veterinary and military use potential. Furthermore, the device allows suturing to be used in a wider range of applications, including other laparoscopic (keyhole) surgeries and in robotics.
In October 2014, Sutrue began applications for worldwide patents on their suturing device, and is currently in phase two of its fundraising via CrowdBnk in order to pay for the final development of the project. Previously, they were able to raise £30,000 to cover the costs of their National Stage Patents.
"3D printing to this level of accuracy costs a lot of money," says Berry. "To have something desktop, where its within the price range of an individual creator, opens up any design that you want to make."
Berry expects their device to be widely adopted by the medical community, and will continue to innovate in the field with the help of his desktop 3D printer.
Please login to save this item to your profile.