Hand-held device helps heal after surgery

Posted at 11:16 PM, Oct 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-21 01:16:12-04

SALT LAKE CITY - A new device helps patients recovering from surgery fight common and sometimes deadly post-surgical infections.

The PICO pump is a palm-sized negative pressure wound therapy device; it sucks away the fluids wounds produce after surgery to help combat infection.

"Infections are a big problem. They're very expensive to treat. They ruin people's lives. And being able to successfully treat a total joint or total knee replacement infection specifically can be very difficult," said Dr. Jeffrey Rocco.

A white strip is placed over the wound and the PICO pump is hooked up and turned on, then it starts pumping, cleaning up wounds.

"In addition to sealing the wound and creating overall better wound healing, it also provides mechanical stability to the incision. I believe that mechanical stability enhances the healing and that might be part of the reason why it looks better," Rocco said.

Rocco says that of the estimated 27 million patients who undergo surgery every year, around 500,000 will suffer a surgical-site infection. Every year, 10,000 deaths are associated with those infections.

"If we could reduce 90 percent of the existing orthopedic surgical-site infections, that could be a tremendous cost savings to our country as a whole," he said.

The device uses the same suction treatment offered to soldiers with war wounds. The smaller-scale technology is important for other types of surgeries where patients need mobility.

"I think there are applications for open heart surgeries, major abdominal surgeries, even c-sections. That's a very common procedure and sometimes the wound healing can be difficult for a c-section," Rocco said.

The dressing should stay in place for about one week. Since the device is both portable and waterproof, users can live pretty normal lives after surgery.