Stories about: anticoagulants

The solution to keeping IV lines clear and infection-free? Make them slippery

A slippery coating inspired by the surface of a pitcher plant could help keep IV lines free of bacteria and blood clots. (kleo_marlo/Flickr)

Pick up a piece of IV tubing (should you happen to have one nearby) and run your hand down the length of it. The surface feels pretty smooth, yes?

From the perspective of bacteria and platelets, that same surface is pockmarked with nooks and crannies where they can stick, aggregate and start to form blood clots (in the case of platelets) or hard-to-combat biofilms (in the case of bacteria).

That’s a problem for hospital care. Contaminated central lines (IV lines threaded into deep veins for long periods of time) cause upwards of 41,000 costly and potentially fatal central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in pediatric and adult patients in U.S. hospitals every year. And blood clots can preclude patients, including premature babies, from receiving new lung-protecting treatments because they can’t tolerate anticoagulants.

Both problems may have a single solution. Clinicians in Boston Children’s Department of Newborn Medicine and engineers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have collaborated to develop a coating, inspired by pitcher plants, that makes the surfaces of clinical-grade plastics so slippery that platelets and bacteria can’t get a toehold.

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