FastStitch tool makes light work of tough surgical stitching

A disposable suturing tool designed to guide the placement of stitches and guard against the accidental puncture of internal organs has been engineered by a team from Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Dubbed FastStitch, the prototype device is described as a cross between pliers and a hole-puncher. It's designed to stitch together the strongest part of the abdomen, the muscle layer called the fascia, which is located just below the patient's skin. "Doctors who have to suture the fascial layer say it can be like pushing a needle through the leather of your shoe," said biomedical engineering student Luis Hererra. "If the needle accidentally cuts into the bowel, it can lead to a sepsis infection that can be very dangerous." To help prevent this, the students designed the FastStitch needle to remain housed within the jaws of the stitching tool. "You place the fascial layer between the top and bottom arms of the device," explained Hererra. "Then, as you close the arms, the spring-loaded clamp is strong enough to punch the needle through the fascial layer. When this happens, the needle moves from one arm of the tool to the other." The device also features a visual guide to help ensure that the stitches are placed evenly, located the proper distance away from the incision and apart from one another. This, according to the researchers, should also reduce postoperative complications. The hand-size, pliers-like shape was chosen because it would feel familiar to surgeons and require less training. The prototype was constructed mostly of ABS plastic so that the instrument would be inexpensive to produce and could be discarded after one use. "We're developing the future of suture," said Hererra. "We believe that if the FastStitch tool is used to close abdominal incisions, it will help in three important ways: It will help surgeons by making the closure process simpler and safer. It will help hospitals by reducing costs. And, most importantly, it will help patients by reducing post-operative complications."