Breakthrough in abscess treatment

PERTH startup Inova Medical is set to do a pilot trial of its innovative “Abcease” device with Royal Perth Hospital.

Most patients referred to hospital with an abscess need a general anaesthetic and have to go under the knife.

They often end up taking up a valuable hospital bed for two or three days as the procedure is non-urgent and they are “bumped” from theatre lists.

The single-use Abcease device can be used to treat patients under a local anaesthetic, and is a one-stop solution for penetration, drainage, and collection.

Patients are out of hospital quicker and there’s less strain on the health system.

The device is also an alternative treatment for elderly patients and others who can’t have a general anaesthetic.

Abcease was the brainchild of three talented Perth locals – research scientist Melanie White, consultant general surgeon Dr Ming Khoon Yew and bioengineer Dr Alex Hayes.

“We recognised that skin abscess treatment hadn’t changed for a very long time; it often involves a multi-day stay in hospital, general anaesthetic and an operation,” says Ms White.

“Not only is this costly and creates congestion in an already-burdened health system, it is inconvenient for patients who are away from home, work and their families for several days.”

A recent study of start-ups across Australia painted a grim picture, but since forming in 2017, Inova Medical has gone from strength to strength with its Abcease prototype performing well in pre-clinical trials over the last three years.

Recently it took part in the CSIRO’s ON program, which helps start-ups transition to commercialisation, and Inova is hoping to release Abcease within the next five years.

Remote

Ms White says the device could potentially help patients in remote rural areas.

“Initially, Abcease will be used in hospitals as an alternative to surgery,” she says.

“However, one of the benefits of Abcease is that is has the potential to be used in a range of settings.

This includes metropolitan hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as country health services in rural and remote areas where it can be a very long trip to hospital.

“We are also exploring the possibility of its use by nurse practitioners.”

Ms White says the Abcease pilot trial will also involve Curtin University.

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Festering problem

There has been a 48 per cent increase in hospitalisation due to cutaneous abscesses in Australia between 1999-2008, but the treatment of skin abscesses has remained relatively unchanged for the last 50 years.

Whilst considered relatively benign, abscesses are a significant precursor to major medical conditions like sepsis, infective endocarditis, osteomyelitis, necrotising fasciitis and septic arthritis.

Data from Royal Perth Hospital shows that 60 per cent of patients presenting to emergency for treatment of deep subcutaneous abscesses were admitted under the surgical team for in-patient, in-theatre incision and drainage.

Australia-wide, the annual hospitalisation rate for abscesses is about 62 per 100,000 population and rising.

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