A stitch in time

Anyone who’s ever been cut or cut themselves badly is unpleasantly familiar with needing stitches. But in this day and age it’s hard not to feel that there ought to be a rather neater, less crude method of treating wounds than a hooked needle and a length of synthetic fibre (sometimes silk or gut).

Of course medical professionals do everything in their power to minimise the pain and scarring caused by stitches, but some is still inevitable. Equally, the need to go to hospital and wait for hours to be treated for a relatively minor cut is not only a tremendous waste of our time as patients, it also places additional strain on health services the world over.

And, while in this country we are fortunate enough to be able to rely on medical care that’s free at the point of use, in other countries, the business of getting a cut stitched up can be an expensive one.

Finally, there is the question of infection. The introduction of any foreign body into and under the skin represents a potential source of infection and, while traditional stitching is accompanied by procedures to minimise this, it nonetheless remains a threat.

Of course there are some alternatives, such as the butterfly bandage. This is an adhesive strip designed to close small wounds by pulling the skin together. These outperform ordinary plasters and are also small and light. However, their shortcoming is that they can only deal with relatively small cuts.

This Month's Challenge:

This month’s challenge, then, is to devise a more effective, less invasive wound closure device that can be applied at home and can even reduce the possibility of infection.

This can use any number of technologies, but should be affordable for most households. As ever, we have a solution in mind, but are keen to see what you come up with.

The Solution To Last Month’s Coffee Time Challenge

The solution to last month’s Coffee Time Challenge of producing a better wound closure device comes from US tissue-repair device company ZipLine Medical, which has developed a tool called ZipStitch, which combines the convenience of a plaster with many of the benefits provided by having a cut stitched by a doctor.

ZipStitch is a small, adhesive device that is designed to be placed over cuts less than 4mm in width.

Once it is stuck down, the user simply pulls each of the four miniature straps on the device, tightening them and closing the break in the skin. Because it is so small and light, ZipLine Medical believes its product is ideal for everyday first-aid kits, and can be useful for someone to have with them during a range of outdoor activities where minor injuries can often occur, including cycling, hiking or camping.

The company warns, however, that the wound must be cleaned properly and allowed to dry before application. Not only does this reduce the risk of infection, but it ensures the device will stick to the skin and remain in place.

It is sold online for $29.99 as part of a pack including gauze pads to stop bleeding, alcohol wipes to clean wounds, and bandage to cover and protect the cut once ZipStitch has been applied.

The device is supposedly 12-times stronger than regular stitches and results in reduced scarring. Unlike conventional sutures, ZipStitch is also non-invasive, which can reduce the chances of bacteria causing infection.

The company says it provides better protection than butterfly bandages and other adhesive plasters, repairing cuts faster and decreasing the likelihood of scarring.