Researchers at King’s College London have won the 2013 Guardian University Award for Outstanding Research Impact for innovating seamless garments, Skinnies WEB™,a range of therapeutic clothing, which can help to improve the quality of life for patients with epidermolysis bullosa (EB).
EB is a rare genetic skin condition, which causes the skin and inner body linings to blister when exposed to any friction. It affects 1 in 17,000 people in the UK. EB nurse specialists working in the NHS, with the support of the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association (DEBRA), have led a patient-centred project to design a suitable way to reduce the burden of EB wounds on a day-to-day basis. Patients, carers and clinicians were asked to describe the main challenges they faced when dressing EB wounds and researchers witnessed bandage changes to gain a first-hand understanding of the issues surrounding EB and tissue viability.
Great care must be taken to ensure dressings do not slip, which can tear the fragile skin and cause adherence of existing wounds to clothing or bedding. The retaining bandage or tape can also lead to additional blistering from movement or contact with the surrounding skin (International Consensus, 2012).
The Skinnies WEB™ (Woundcare for Epidermolysis Bullosa) garments were developed for EB patients. These retention garments are seamless to reduce friction when placed next to the skin, preventing further trauma to the tissue. The garments come in a range of leggings, shorts and tops, are easy to put on, and are worn over the dressings, allowing for greater flexibility than traditional retention bandages.
Dr Patricia Grocott, who was also a finalist in the Wounds UK 2012 awards for this work, told the Guardian that the project addresses “the problems that arise when pre-sized and shaped dressings, designed to cover individual wounds, are patchworked across extensive wounds and secured with layers of bandages.”
As well as the immediate benefits for people suffering from EB, patients with other conditions that result in extensive wounds may also benefit, as projects with Great Ormond St Hospital, the Institute of Dermatology London, the palliative care team at Guys and St Thomas’s, and Woundcare4Heroes start to get underway.