Wound care manufacturing is, in basic terms, the procedures use to create the myriad number of dressings which are available to assist medical professionals in closing wounds and preventing infections. Throughout history there has been a variety of methods adopted to protect and heal any cut to the skin or organs; whether accidental or from surgery. As technology has advanced so have the techniques used to produce wound care dressings and the dressings themselves have become more sophisticated.
A brief history
Early man would have realized that any wound will heal itself, although it may not always be possible to recover from the injury. A variety of herbal supplements would have been used to speed up healing or to help stop bleeding.
As early as 1500 BC the Egyptians are known to have used lint to help close a wound, honey as an antibiotic and animal grease to keep environmental infections away from the wound.
Roman times saw the realization that moisture at the site of a wound was essential to promote closure of the wound. There were no major developments in wound care techniques until the 19th century.
This period saw the introduction of cleanliness as a vital practice to prevent deaths after surgery. Dressings started to appear which were treated with iodine to sterilize the wound site. These were manufactured by Johnson & Johnson in the 1870’s. This company is now a huge, global concern and competes with other wound care manufacturers such as Baril Corporation or Smith & Nephew. This realization then led to the introduction of heat sterilization for surgical instruments. By the end of the 19th century surgeons understood the importance of cleaning a wound before closure.
The 1950’s saw the introduction of fibrous synthetics which would allow doctors to not only protect wounds better but also aid and speed the healing process. This was quickly followed by moist dressings as a standard way to dress certain wounds.
In the 1990’s there were developments made into the composite and hybrid polymers and a whole new range of dressings became available. This is the era that saw surgeons start to graft skin over wounds and advancements in biotechnology made it possible to clone someone’s skin; ready for grafting.
In the modern age the types of dressings continue to improve but there is also a huge emphasis on research and development. Patients with severe wounds, such as burns have frequently commentated on the ongoing issue of pain and this has now become a focus area for many research projects.
Modern manufacturing companies now have much stricter guidelines to adhere to when manufacturing wound care products. Every product which is manufactured needs to be created under strictly controlled conditions; a clean room is essential. The clean room is designed to control air quality, temperature and humidity to ensure no biological matter can rest on a dressing before it is packaged. If any did they would be able to breed whilst inside the packaging and create a potentially dangerous infection when used on a wound.
Every piece of equipment used in a clean room must be steam cleaned regularly to ensure it remains free from bacteria and any other contaminants. Companies which operate clean rooms need to be certified to the relevant ISO standard; this involves following strict guidelines and correctly monitoring every part of the process. An ISO certificate is renewed every few years which ensures that any company continues to comply with the relevant standard.
Wound care products are now manufactured by machines such as the die cutter. These machines can be either flatbed die cutters or rotary die cutters.
The Flatbed Die cutter
As the name suggest this machine cuts materials which are laid flat on a bed, the cutter comes down onto the material and cuts the required shape. These machines can handle large pieces of material and a wide variety of thickness. They can also laminate the material which means cutting just the top layer and leaving the lower layer intact. The lower layer in this case would be the adhesive part. A modern machine will have servo controlled presses to ensure cuts are extremely precise. It would also have hydraulic presses to enable a quick set up if the product is needed urgently.
The Rotary Die Cutter
Instead of cutting onto a flatbed this machine uses to revolving drums which come together to effectively crush the material and leave the desired shape. A rotary die cannot handle the size or thickness that a flatbed can but it is capable of cutting very complicated designs. It is incredibly accurate and offers more opportunity to see the product whilst it is being processed; making mistakes easier to spot. This machine is capable of producing any product at an incredibly high speed. It can also laminate any material.
The level of wound care manufacturing has increased every year for the last five years and this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Medical advances have made it possible to heal many wounds but there are some wounds which remain resistant to healing. New techniques which are being researched include stem cell and gene therapy.
Stem cells appear naturally in the body and will travel to the site of a wound to assist in regenerating tissue, inhibiting scars and improving the strength of the wound. Advancements in stem cell therapy may soon allow the addition of stem cells to an injured person to improve their chance of recovery.
This technique is still being researched to confirm how effective and safe it is. The principle is to add the right gene to anyone injured or suffering from certain diseases. The gene would be specific to the injury and would help in the patient’s recovery. The gene may replace existing genes in the body or it may work alongside them to promote healing.
Despite all medical advances the most important factor to ensure successful wound care is the technique used to apply the dressing. This basic fact should not be forgotten in the rush to use new and exciting treatment methods.