A project by Sheffield Hallam University that can quickly identify the risk of infection in women who have given birth by caesarean section has been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education (THE) award.
Nominated for Research Project of the Year: STEM, researchers in the University’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing have been shortlisted for their innovative work in developing a thermal-imaging system that will allow clinicians to see, within a few days, the different characteristics that make up an infected and non-infected wound and could determine whether a patient is at risk of developing a wound infection after they are discharged from hospital.
A team of scientists, clinicians, engineers and computer scientists from Sheffield Hallam, University of Sheffield, University of Huddersfield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals have developed a wound technology prototype that could provide early diagnosis of wound infection in women undergoing caesarean section before any visible infection signs appear.
The study team have trialled this technique in patients undergoing abdominal surgery who are of both normal weight and obese and the team are now looking to open up the research to further explore the effects of obesity on wound healing in a range of surgical specialties.
Women who have a high body mass index (BMI) are most at risk of developing an infection after a caesarean section, which presents problems for new mothers. But the research team believe thermal images taken around the area of the wound could detect signs of potential infection just 48 hours after surgery.
The technique could also be applied to patients undergoing other types of surgery and it is hoped that the study will eventually contribute towards a general reduction in antibiotic prescribing.
The project, which has had funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC), has already received international recognition after twice winning the Journal of Wound Care award for ‘innovation in surgical site infection’ and ‘best clinical research’.
Leading the study, Charmaine Childs, professor of clinical science at Sheffield Hallam, said: “I am so proud that this project has been shortlisted for such a prestigious award. Infection in surgical wounds can bring misery and morbid complications to many patients and is the third most frequent healthcare-associated infection, imposing a significant burden on NHS resources.
“Caesarean wound infections usually develop after the woman has been discharged from hospital but by using the thermal imaging technique, clinicians could better monitor patients at the bedside immediately after surgery. This would allow for early detection of the risk of infection before it becomes a problem. The short stays in hospital after the birth of a baby make this technique an important step forward in wound infection surveillance and I am thrilled our work has been recognised once again.
“It will also help to identify the patients who are in greatest need of antibiotics and will help rationalise the prescribing of antibiotics to those in most need therefore preventing the overprescribing and sometimes unnecessary use of these precious drugs.”
This is the second THE award for which the University has been nominated. Sheffield Hallam’s partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe has been shortlisted for ‘Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration’.
The shortlisting recognises the work of the University’s in-house game studio, Steel Minions – a research laboratory and teaching studio in Hallam’s Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI). Under the PlayStation®First academic programme, Steel Minions has become the only university studio in the UK to publish its own PlayStation® games.
During the collaboration, the University has worked with cutting edge hardware, such as PlayStation®VR (PS VR), forming the basis of a €1m Horizon 2020 research project.
As a result, Steel Minions have developed an innovative virtual reality game around the life of one of Britain’s greatest scientists. The team are leading the EU ‘REVEAL’ project which has produced the game, titled The Chantry, which centres around the life of physician and scientist Edward Jenner who saved millions of lives from the threat of smallpox, through his pioneering work on the world’s first vaccine.
Winners will be announced at the THE awards ceremony in London on 29 November.