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Preventing adhesions following surgery.

Appendectomy patients generally dread the walk they must take the day after surgery to keep things from "growing together." A new substance being tested by University of Texas at Austin researchers could make such painful exercises unnecessary.

Jeffrey Hubbell, a chemical engineer who specializes in biomedical applications, is a co-inventor of a gel that promises to be the best material available for the prevention of post-operative adhesions. Such adhesions are a part of the natural healing process, but can be detrimental or even dangerous if an organ attaches to adjacent organs or other body tissues. The substance is a polyethylene glycol-based liquid that is designed to be poured on tissue surrounding the site of the surgical procedure. The area then is irradiated with light, which turns the liquid into a gel that biodegrades after a few weeks. While the gel is in the body, a slippery barrier is maintained between the organs, and no post-operative adhesions will occur.

In addition to appendectomies, the gel can have applications to many other procedures, including heart surgery and ovarian cyst removal. Usage in gynecological surgery would be especially important because post-operative adhesions can compromise fertility, Hubbell notes. "Every time you manipulate the ovary, it heals to other organs in the pelvis or to the pelvic wall itself. If the fallopian tube is involved, it can result in a bent tube that is not meant to be bent, and the scar tissue can result in infertility."

Other types of materials currently are being used to help offset post-operative adhesions, including a cellulosic fabric, but he maintains that the polyethylene glycol-based gel should be superior. "It's different because it has a much higher biocompatibility--in other words, you won't run into problems with tissue inflammation. Our material is very non-inflammatory because of the chemistry of the polymer." The gel should be ready for clinical trials in human surgery patients around mid 1993 and then will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration approval process. Therefore, widespread use in surgery is still a few years away.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:340
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