Massachusetts General Hospital LogoPeople who fall down too often and hurt themselves may now be free of their worries. They may not have to get their wounds stitched manually but they may stitch their wounds with the help of a laser. This treatment may decrease scarring and may also reduce the chances of infection. This novel laser treatment was apparently discovered by researchers in the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

It may sound like something one would see in a futuristic TV show, but ‘laser stitches’ previously called as photochemical tissue bonding or laser-assisted nanosuturing are apparently already used to close human wounds. Light is apparently used by the researchers to ‘stitch’ surface wound openings back together. This is done by a light which is shone from a KTP green laser onto the skin after each side of the opening has been coated with Rose Bengal which is an opthalmological dye permitted by the FDA. When the light reacts with the dye, a continuous bond may be created which reconnects the collagen in the skin tissue without heating the skin. The result may be a watertight seal that does not need a return visit to the doctor’s clinic for the removal of suture.

Irene Kochevar, chemist and co-inventor of the technology with Robert Redmond in the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Mass General, commented, “One way to describe how laser-assisted nanosuturing works is to think of the difference between Velco fasteners on shoes and shoe laces. With the laser, you attach the tissues using a huge number of nanosutures whereas traditional suturing leaves small gaps in the wound closure.”

The treatment is still being tested in a clinical trial by Dr. Sandy Tsao, a dermatologist in the Laser Center at Mass general. It apparently has a far less inflammatory response than conventional stitches, as there is supposedly no allergic reaction to a foreign body being introduced to the skin. Photochemical tissue may decrease the likeliness of infection after surgery as well as reduce the inflammation. Access to pathogens that might otherwise make their way through is blocked as there may be no openings in the skin.

Apparently patients may experience a cosmetic bonus with this new technique of suturing. The people who were subjects of the research had half of their wounds closed by using the traditional suturing and the other half by the laser. The laser-treated side apparently looked better than the other in all the patients. In a traditional suturing, cross-hatch marks may be observed but in a laser treatment there may be only a single line. During the duration of six months, the patients were observed and the appearance of their wound closure was apparently documented at two weeks after surgery, three months and six months.

Kochevar commented “We’re so grateful to the patients who volunteered for the study. Despite their busy lives, they came back to be observed. We couldn’t have done such good research without them.”

Kochevar is of the opinion that a light source which is small and portable may be created for all dermatologists to be able to use it in the clinical setting as well as cutting down treatment time. Currently, it apparently takes only about three minutes to close the wound, but the researchers are looking at methods for closing the wound in about thirty seconds. Kochevar anticipates that this technology may develop beyond the skin’s surface to patch up complicated tissues such as cornea and nerves that are damaged by conventional suturing, and which may need tremendously high levels of surgical ability for repair.

Kochevar mentions that they are very excited about improving surgical outcomes, and possibly making new surgeries available, by using light to seal and connect delicate tissues with minimal scarring.