An innovative surgical patch that promotes rapid regrowth of tendon tissue could transform the success of shoulder repair operations.

The patch will be used by surgeons to repair torn tendon tissue, and patient trials are being conducted.maria Made from a new material developed by a team of surgeons, engineers and biochemists in Oxford, the smart patch promotes rapid regrowth of damaged tissue, ensuring the injury heals more quickly and more successfully. The project is a collaboration between the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Unit and the Medical Research Council.

Andy Carr, an Oxford University Hospitals surgeon and Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford, led the development of the patch, which has been designed to repair damage to the rotator cuff, the group of tendons and muscles that controls movement of the shoulder. More than 10,000 rotator cuff repairs are performed in the UK each year (more than 300,000 are performed in the US), and the group’s research has shown that between 25% and 50% will fail to heal properly.

Professor Carr, of the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences at Oxford University, said: “Around a third of the population will suffer from shoulder pain due to tendon disease at some time in their life, making it the third most common musculoskeletal complaint. “This type of injury will not kill you but it can seriously affect your quality of life. Patients are often in a lot of pain, with severely restricted movement. In some cases it can affect your livelihood and in older people it can affect independence. This will become more and more of a problem as the population ages and the retirement age is increased.“

Professor Carr said the failure rate was due to the fact that the body was failing to repair properly after surgery. To improve the outcomes of surgery, the team have designed a material that mimics the normal environment that cells require in order to mount a successful repair. The scaffold used degrades and is absorbed by the body after three to six months. Patient trials of the new patch are being held and Professor Carr said: “If successful, the patch has the potential to be adapted for use in other tissue repair operations such as heart surgery, hernia repair, bladder repair and the treatment of early arthritis.“