UA Study of ‘Water-Scalpels” Recommends Precautions against Bacteria


Researchers from The University of Arizona Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA) and the University of Manchester College of Medicine in the United Kingdom took away the top poster award at the Symposium for the Advancement of Wound Care (SAWC) in Dallas. Their study evaluating the use of sophisticated “water-scalpels” used in surgical reconstruction suggests that precautions against bacterial contamination need to be made during their use.


“The data from this study surprised us,” said David G. Armstrong, DPM, PhD, professor of surgery, SALSA’s director, and senior author on the study. “In a highly controlled mock-operating room environment, tiny bacteria can be released that stay in the air over a prolonged period of time. We should be mindful of this to avoid increasing the risk of contamination.”


The surgeon-researchers suggest tips to reduce this transmission, like using additional operating room equipment to shield the area during surgery. “We believe this work challenges what we do everyday and helps us get better so we can further improve promising technologies to heal more wounds,” Dr. Armstrong said. The “water scalpels” use water forced through a precision instrument at thousands of pounds per square inch to precisely remove dead tissue.


The SAWC is an international symposium with more than 3,000 clinicians and scientists.


Update: This study is now available free online at the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research:

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