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The University of Southampton
Medical Devices and Vulnerable Skin Network

Medical Device and Vulnerable Skin First Sandpit Event

Published: 9 December 2014

On the 26th November 2014, The Medical Device and Vulnerable Skin Network (MDVSN) held its first sandpit event, attended by 45 delegates with an interest in the latest research and developments in medical devices and their impact on vulnerable skin.

Sandpit event
Sanpit Event













The MDVSN's first sandpit meeting was designed to promote exchange of ideas and techniques between academics, industrialists, clinicians, and key government agencies to foster collaborations with focus on a series of clinical exemplars.



Dan Bader, Professor of Bioengineering and Tissue Health, Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Southampton and Principal Investigator of the MDVSN introduced the Network's first sandpit event and outlined the Case for Support for the Network: to integrate expertise required to introduce cutting edge technologies and scientific understanding in order to reduce the incidence of chronic wounds induced by non-physiological loading situations arising from interventional medical devices.

Morning Session: Partners in the Medical Devices and Vulnerable Skin Network

In the morning session, partners in the Medical Devices and Vulnerable Skin Network gave overviews of their involvement and confirmed the clear clinical need for research to be undertaken in the area of medical devices and vulnerable skin. We heard several scenarios where patients are at risk of developing pressure ulcers/skin damage through situations where medical devices load the skin.

There is a need to engage the patients, carers and clinicians who have experienced situations where medical devices have caused pressure damage. This involvement needs to be incorporated throughout the research and development pathway, from conception of research question/new device design to implementation.

Academic institutions have a clear interest in improving our ability to detect skin damage and further our knowledge regarding the aetiology of medical device related pressure ulcers with industry members also striving to innovate products to provide better safety for patients.

However, there are some barriers to innovation, particularly with costs. External funding which can offset this risk would enable more R&D partnerships with academic institutions to develop new products.

HTCs provide an extensive resource to assist research design, product assessment and facilitate the pathway to translation and both our supporting Devices4Dignity and WoundTec HTC partners have fantastic clinical links to a number of specialist patients groups and clinical research facilities designed for clinical trials ranging from small scale investigations to large randomised controlled trials.

Morning Session: Technology Themes

In the afternoon technology themed session, colleagues from NPL highlighted the innovative technologies which can be used to monitor skin and soft tissue viability. These techniques included several imaging modalities, namely Thermo and optical imaging. There was also discussion about the role these imaging techniques could have in providing feedback to patients and clinicians to aid self-management strategies and prevent skin and soft tissue damage from occurring. Sensing technology now has the capability to monitor patients over longer periods with wireless technology to monitor measurements remotely.

Bioengineering colleagues from the University of Southampton detailed the progression that finite element modelling has made when simulating skin and soft tissues. The process of developing models from images was highlighted and results from skin wrinkling and moisture discussed. There was a clear need to add validation to these models and ensure input parameters in the form of boundary conditions and material properties were appropriate modelled and interrogated. However, finite element modelling provides the potential to act as an adjunct to other traditional pre-clinical testing techniques to assess the efficacy of new devices. By simulating patient-devices interface conditions costs could also be reduced when developing new device designs and materials.

Medical device design techniques were discussed with our representatives from the University of Newcastle. Here the application of additive technology in the form of 3D printing was discussed. Clinical examples were 3D printing has been used included mandible reconstruction, amputee prosthetics and wrist splints. The application of differing material modulus in the 3D printing technique offered the used the ability to match the modulus of the material to the interface with the patient. Although these additive technologies are not widely used in the clinical setting there is a growing interest in the area and further exploration of wound prevention is needed.

Our final speaker from the University of Nottingham discussed the role of physiological sensing to detect tissue viability changes. These sensing technologies included optical blood flow imaging and monitoring and introducing optical fibres into textiles for physiological and biochemical monitoring. Clinical examples included intensive care units where sensors have been implanted into medical devices to monitor tissue status. This technology could be expanded to include measurement of other key biomarkers, with integration at the device-patient interface.

Notes for editors

The Medical Devices and Vulnerable Skin Network launched in May 2014, represents a partnership led by the University of Southampton (Bader and Worsley) and Kings College London (Grocott), with support from the NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives (HTCs) associated with Devices for Dignity (D4D) and Wound Prevention & Treatment and named academic and industrial collaborators. Its strategic aims are to introduce cutting-edge technologies and scientific understanding in order to reduce the incidence of mechanical-induced damage of vulnerable skin caused by interventional medical devices in various clinical settings.

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