Embroidered surgical implants – The future of suture

Over the years YES Ltd has been a pioneer and advocate of technologies and solutions that, not only benefit efficiencies, but also help to revolutionise people and improve their quality of life. The most memorable and novel textile innovation to date being the company’s assistance in using embroidery stitching to create cost-effective surgical implants.

The company’s managing director, Roy Burton, who has extensive experience of working in the embroidery industry, enthusiastically views YES Ltd as ‘the conduit to make things happen’.  So, when Roy was approached by Ellis Developments in 2003 to help devise an embroidered solution for surgical implants, yes was the first and only word that sprang to mind.

Ellis Developments is a Nottingham-based research and development company providing innovative solutions for engineering and surgical problems using textiles. The company’s founder, Professor Julian Ellis, who holds the degree of Master of Philosophy for research into the technology of fabrics, was exploring the concept of using commercial embroidery techniques in developing surgical implants. Professor Ellis was working in collaboration with Professor Angus Wallace, consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre, at the time, in a bid to find an alternative repair system for shoulder and elbow surgery.

Hand embroidery has been used for decorating textiles for thousands of years but the invention of the first hand embroidery machine in the early 1800s laid the foundations for progressive and innovative breakthroughs in medical technology using intricate stitching methods.

While slightly sceptical at first, Roy selected the SWF single-head embroidery machine to trial this tentative process. Suture thread was selected to undertake the stitching as absorbable biological suture material is produced specifically for surgical applications due to its well documented behaviour in the body.

The stitching was carried out on a water-soluble base film, so that after the implant was formed the base film could be dissolved away and only the embroidered stitched structure remains. The embroidery machine was adjusted so that the suture thread could be attached and an elaborate design was created that was unlike any form of embroidery stitch pattern completed before.

Each stitch needed to interlock to form a bell-shaped piece of fabric and a deliberate hole sat in the centre of the narrow end of the curved material.  It was important that a repeated stitching method was executed around the hole as a bolt was to be secured to the piece of fabric so that it could be screwed into the replacement shoulder bone in order to hold it all in place. The hole was built up using vermicelli stitching to fuse it together and strengthen the fabric, which was affectionately coined ‘polo mint stitching’ by Roy.

This structure enabled Professor Wallace to perform shoulder surgery on a patient who had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident, and the procedure proved to be a resounding success.

Research surrounding medical implants continues to move on leaps and bounds, yet while surgical implant technology is still in its infancy, both Ellis Developments and Your Embroidery Services Ltd are eager to partake in these advancements.

YES Ltd has been at the forefront of countless product developments over the past years and looks forward to future opportunities to continue this work.  And while the company recognises that it will never sell a million machines on this type of application, it is most notably the public service it facilitates in the background that contributes to life-changing innovations such as this.

A short feature about medical implants being produced on the SWF embroidery machine aired on BBC1 television (Midlands) on June 23 at 7.30pm which can be viewed by clicking here.

Phone: 01623 863343
Email: hello@yesltd.co.uk

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