August 29, 2011

Gluing Cut Blood Vessels Together

Gluing blood vessels together, just like gluing a cut garden hose together, does not seem like a great idea at first, but Stanford researchers just might have figured out how to do this safely and effectively.

Over the past century and still currently used today is to hand-sew the cut ends of the blood vessel together using stitches. This method of reattaching blood vessels is time-consuming and tedious, especially when the blood vessels are tiny.

In this new glue method which is FIVE times faster, a special substance is injected into the cut blood vessel on both ends called a poloxamer. This substance has the unique property of becoming an elastic solid when heated above body temperature which than turns into a biodegradable liquid that dissolves away when cooled.

In a nutshell, the steps are as follows:

  1. The poloxamer is inserted into the blood vessel where is solidifies using a halogen lamp thereby keeping the lumen open.
  2. The cut edges of the blood vessel are precisely reapproximated and "glued" together using dermabond, a substance currently used to "glue" together cut skin.
  3. The blood vessel is allowed to cool down by taking away the halogen lamp and the poloxamer contained within the blood vessel melts and dissolves away.

So far, this procedure has only been done in animals, but since all of the components of this technique has already been FDA-approved for human use for other purposes, if proven to work, can rapidly be adopted for microvascular surgery in humans.

Vascular anastomosis using controlled phase transitions in poloxamer gels. Nature Medicine (2011) doi:10.1038/nm.2424
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Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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