Medical compression products

My name is Lisa Macintyre and I am a textile technologist. I have been working as a lecturer for 16 years, and I love being able to combine teaching and doing medical textile research. Medical textiles includes a huge range of textiles from the filaments in kidney dialysis machines and sutures for stitching wounds together to surgeon’s gowns and even prosthetic devices like artificial arteries but my area of expertise is in medical compression products.

I worked for many years on ‘pressure garments’, used to treat hypertrophic scars that develop after very serious burn injuries. Hypertrophic scars are red, itchy, lumpy, painful scars that if left untreated are ugly and can cause physical deformity. When I first started working on pressure garments for hypertrophic burn scars, no-one really knew how they worked or how to optimise them. The work that I did established:

1. How hospitals in the UK made pressure garments at that time – this enabled me to design experiments that led to new knowledge.

2. That patients sometimes received too much or too little pressure depending on:

– their hospital
– the fabrics used to make pressure garments
– their body size

3. A new method of measuring the pressure exerted by pressure garments on the body.

4. A new design method for pressure garments that would enable pressure garments to exert known pressures on patient’s limbs.

I am currently working with a Masters’ student and two hospitals to develop a computer programme that will help them monitor treatment and then make pressure garments that exert the ideal pressure every time.

I recently started working on anti-embolism stockings as well. Anti-embolism stockings are used in hospitals world-wide to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs. These stockings are fitted to patients before they have surgery or are immobile for a long time. Anti-embolism stockings work by applying particular pressures to people’s legs. This increases the blood flow back to the heart which stops it from clotting, or forming a thrombus. It is very important that the right pressures are applied in the right places or the stockings will not work and may even cause more harm than good.

If you would like to follow in Lisa’s footsteps combining your knowledge of science, medicine and textiles you could be:

  • A technical textiles designer – designing fabrics to have specific properties for use within the medical industry
  • A textiles production manager – overseeing the manufacturing process of all medical textiles
  • A chemical engineering technician – working with chemical engineers to research, develop and design certain textiles to be used in medicine
  • A textile technologist – producing fibres and fabrics before testing them for strength and/or efficiency
  • A research scientist – carrying out experiments and investigations to see whether the suggested textiles can meet their requirements within the medical industry
  • A design engineer – researching and developing ideas for new products and the systems used to make them
  • A textile designer – creating fabric designs and patterns for woven, knitted and printed materials used within the medical textile industry
  • A colour chemist – designing and producing new dyes (for textiles, hair, paints, etc.) and printing inks/pastes
  • A textile chemist – inventing and developing new fibres or wet processes to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly
  • A textile buyer – sourcing and recognising good quality fabrics for purchase, whilst understanding the quality and manufacturing variables that affect the price of textiles.