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  • Laser welding: Coming to an OR near you

May 2011
Compiled by EuroPhotonics staff

MUNICH, Germany – Instead of sewing up wounds, doctors soon could “weld” them shut, thanks to a new minimally invasive tool that closes wounds using a laser. Based on the laser welding process developed for plastics, the device simplifies the process of suturing and expedites healing.

Although more surgeries are being carried out in a minimally invasive manner, suturing can still be a challenge. Very often, piercing the tissue and tying the knots is difficult because surgeons must operate in very tight quarters. It isn’t like sewing textiles – a knot must be made after every stitch, an exacting process that stresses the patient and can cause a number of complications. If the suture is too tight, there is the danger of a minor hemorrhage. Also, the suture material could cut into the tissue, strangulating the vessels and causing the tissue to die. If the suture is too loose, bleeding at the edges of the wound may occur. The correct suture tension can be difficult to find. Surgeons must subjectively estimate the optimum tension for each scenario because they do not have access to a reproducible standardized setting.

To simplify and expedite surgeries, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology have developed a minimally invasive suturing instrument. Courtesy of Fraunhofer IPT.

Now, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology have developed a semiautomatic process that enables surgeons to connect the suture material with a previously set, predefined tension. The device allows them to join the edges of the wound quickly and safely with a laser, eliminating the difficult task of knotting.

The researchers successfully carried out the suturing process during lab tests. They achieved a suture tension of 0 to 5 N and a lasing time of 0.1 s. Preclinical studies are slated to begin this year at Aachen University Hospital. Initially, the device will be used for minimally invasive surgeries in the abdominal area, but soon could be adapted to keyhole surgeries of the heart, the scientists say.

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