Clinical researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have been developing a photochemical suturing technique that has, so far, proved valuable in early clinical trials. First, a coating of Rose Bengal, a special FDA approved dye, is applied to the bonding surfaces to be sutured. Then a green KTP (Potassium-titanyl-phosphate) laser is used to activate the dye to fuse the edges together.
"One way to describe how laser-assisted nanosuturing works is to think of the difference between Velco fasteners on shoes and shoe laces," explains Irene Kochevar, chemist and co-inventor of the technology with Robert Redmond in the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Mass General. "With the laser, you attach the tissues using a huge number of nanosutures whereas traditional suturing leaves small gaps in the wound closure."
While Dr. Sandy Tsao , a dermatologist in the Laser Center at Mass General, is still testing this treatment in a clinical trial, those being studied have had far less inflammatory response than they do to traditional stitches, as there is no allergic reaction to a foreign body being introduced to the skin.
As well as reducing inflammation, photochemical tissue bonding may also reduce the chance of infection post surgery. Since there are no openings in the skin, access to pathogens that might otherwise make their way through is blocked.
Patients also experience a cosmetic perk with this new method of suturing. Those in the study had half of the wound closed using traditional suturing and the other half using the laser. In all patients, the laser-treated side looked better than the other. There are no worries of having cross-hatch marks from actual stitching; instead, patients are left with only a single line. Patients were observed over a six-month period, with the appearance of their wound closure documented at two weeks post surgery, three months and six months.