Leeds surgeon invents a polyester fabric patch that’s transforming the treatment of shoulder injuries

11 June 2014

Leeds surgeon and former Olympian runner* Roger Hackney has invented a fabric patch, the ‘Leeds-Kuff Patch™’, which is being used to treat one of the most common causes of chronic pain.

Roger Hackney, consultant shoulder surgeon, Spire Leeds Hospital

Made of drip-dry shirt material, the woven fabric implant is transforming the way in which torn shoulder tendons are repaired. It is used to repair large and massive tears of the rotator cuff. The 40-minute operation, which has been successfully carried out on around 50 patients during clinical trials at the Leeds Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, has been approved for use in UK and Europe.

Mr Hackney, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital, came up with the idea for the patch after becoming increasingly frustrated with not being able to offer patients an effective treatment for the repair of tears of the rotator cuff of the shoulder. 

“I was concerned I could not offer any further treatment to a number of my patients. The special joint replacement for someone without a rotator cuff is only generally recommended for a patient over 70. For younger patients, the thought they would have to suffer a life of pain and restricted movement, often resulting in them not being able to work seemed unacceptable.”

There were patches on the market but these were either made from animal products, human skin or were not easy to use. These were expensive and not as strong as the one Mr. Hackney subsequently developed.

“One of the advantages of the patch is that it can be used where no other repair can be achieved and the alternative treatments might give a poor outcome, so the patch is a great advance for this condition,” he said.

Mr Hackney took the idea to Leeds-based Neoligaments, part of medical device company, Xiros. Working together for three years they developed prototypes and the first patient was treated in January 2013. 

A key design feature is that its structure encourages growth of the patient’s own tissue into the patch material.  The patch is stitched in place over the rotator cuff – the muscle that enables the arm to raise. Once inserted, it holds repaired tendons in place, alleviating pain and restoring movement and also helps to prevent more tears.

One of the first to benefit is Margaret Dyson, 53, who lives in Moortown, Leeds. The former teaching assistant had a patch implanted in her left shoulder at Spire Leeds Hospital in March this year and is now planning to have her right shoulder done.

Margaret Dyson, patient of Kuff treatment

Margaret has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past 20 years. The pain gradually increased over time until it became unbearable a few months ago. “I was on a cocktail of painkillers and steroid injections but nothing would break the cycle of pain. I got to the stage where I could not lift my arm and the pain kept me awake so I only slept about every four nights when I became exhausted.” 

Unable to lift her arm above her head, she was unable to do even simple tasks such as wash her hair or get dressed without help from her husband, Louis. “I thought I would have to have a new shoulder so I was very happy to be offered this option,” said Margaret. 

Soon after the procedure Margaret was feeling much better. “My arm was strapped in a sling for three weeks. After two weeks the pain had virtually gone. I can now sleep on my left side for the first time in months.”

Mr Hackney said, “Margaret's rheumatoid disease put her at an increased risk of failure of a normal repair, but using the patch allowed an early rehabilitation and rapid restoration of function with the expectation that she will regain full pain-free use of her shoulder. 

Now, ten weeks after surgery, Margaret says, “The post-op physio I’m receiving at Spire is fantastic and, as advised, I’m taking things slowly as my strength builds. I’m really pleased with my range of movement and following the success of the surgery I’m looking forward to getting my other shoulder done. I would say it’s a miracle and would and advise anyone who is in a similar situation to find out more about this procedure!”

* Roger Hackney is a former Olympic steeplechaser. He reached the final of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and won a silver medal in the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

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