Research to create better understanding of surgical wounds

Posted on 18 July 2011

A multidisciplinary research team led by the University of York and the Hull York Medical School has been awarded £2 million to study surgical wounds.

The five-year programme grant from the National Institute for Health Research will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of problematic surgical wounds and the impact these have on patients’ lives.

In compiling the funding application we worked closely with patients and their stories helped shape the research

Professor Nicky Cullum

Wounds from surgical operations are common and most heal in a straightforward way when the edges of the incision are sutured, stapled or glued. However, some surgical wounds heal by ‘secondary intention’ where the wound is either left open or breaks down after surgery and heals ‘from the bottom up’.

These wounds can be very severe and have a large impact on patients and the NHS. Some can take months to heal and may become infected, resulting in long hospital stays and further operations.

The aim of the research, which will be led by Professor Ian Chetter from the Hull York Medical School and Professor Nicky Cullum from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, will be to develop a better understanding of the nature, extent, costs, impact and outcomes of surgical wounds healing by secondary intention.

The multidisciplinary team, which includes NHS staff and patients and researchers from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and Centre for Health Economics and the University of Bristol, will also look at which treatments are effective and which further research would be of greatest value.

Professor Nicky Cullum said: “Rough estimates suggest that approximately a third of surgical wounds may end up healing by secondary intention, but we know very little about what happens to patients or which treatments are effective.

“In compiling the funding application we worked closely with patients and their stories helped shape the research. We were particularly struck by the huge impact complicated surgical wounds can have on patients’ lives and how patients may feel let down and isolated as a consequence.”   

Notes to editors:

  • The five-year £2 million programme grant was awarded by the National Institute for Health Research to a multidisciplinary team involving NHS clinicians from Hull and Leeds, NHS managers, patients, health services researchers from the University’s Department of Health Sciences, health economists from the University of York’s Centre for Health Economics and a statistician from the University of Bristol.
  • The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients. More information at www.nihr.ac.uk
  • More information on the University’s Department of Health Sciences at www.york.ac.uk/healthsciences
  • More information on the Hull York Medical School at www.hyms.ac.uk
  • More information on the University of York’s Centre for Health Economics at www.york.ac.uk/che

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