Researchers improve quality of care for young cancer patients

Innovation enables Hickman Lines, or central line catheters, to be safely hidden away while still delivering medication to children

A new device, developed through a collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and a local charity, is set to improve the quality of care for child cancer patients.

Medical practitioners and a dedicated charity have signalled that they are highly impressed by the design for a special harness that safely and comfortably contains the tubing inserted into the chests of youngsters during treatment.

These tubes are central line catheters - often called Hickman Lines after the clinician who developed them - that deliver medication, including chemotherapy. They are vital to treatment, but the tubing protruding from the chest can result in problems such as infection and also cause discomfort for the child, particularly during sleep.

There is also a tendency for very young patients to chew on the lines and also a strong possibility that parents who sleep with their children can snag the catheters.

Now a team of University of Huddersfield researchers, led by Dr Jess Power and including Professor David Leaper and Joanne Marie Harris, has designed and developed, in collaboration with Little Heroes Cancer Trust, a product to contain these external lines, providing greater comfort and safety for the patient.

The result is a highly-functional harness made from an advanced fabric with anti-bacterial properties.

The researchers - who conducted focus groups with the parents of young cancer patients – placed a high priority on comfort, but also stressed the importance of aesthetics, so that the harness is appealing to patients aged up eight years old, for whom the product is dubbed a ‘wiggle bag’.

It is a fantastic result because the product really does benchmark three important things – comfort, functionality and aesthetics

The project began after an approach from Little Heroes when they identified the need for a product to contain the catheter tubing. The trust contributed to research funding, alongside the university’s own Collaborative Ventures Fund and the Yorkshire Innovation Fund.

Prototypes were produced at the university and the harness was met with the enthusiastic approval of Little Heroes, which is now seeking to patent the device.

A consultant paediatrician and a senior nurse at the Royal Liverpool Hospital have also appraised the harness and provided positive feedback.

“They were pleased that we realised we were not designing a medical device, but something for comfort, functionality and good aesthetics, that would enable the patients to have dignity” said Dr Power.

Little Heroes has been provided with six prototype harnesses and the next stage is to carry out testing to double check that the device meets a range of British and International standards, so that it can go into commercial production.

Dr Power said: “It is a fantastic result because the product really does benchmark three important things – comfort, functionality and aesthetics.”

Dr Power, a textile researcher who is director of Teaching and Learning for the School of Art, Design and Architecture; and Professor Leaper, a surgeon who is professor of Clinical Sciences, are members of the University of Huddersfield’s inter-disciplinary Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention. The third core member of the team behind the new harness, Jo Harris, is course leader of for Surface Design for Fashion and Interiors.

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