College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Ultra-powered ultrasound: breaking biofilms on medical implants

Millions of medical devices are implanted in patients each year, and while the majority are successful procedures, some can become infected with bacteria. The type of bacterial infection involving a medical implant can create a biofilm that is extremely hard to kill, thus causing the patient to likely have to remove the device, take the time to heal and get it re-implanted.  

Associate Professor Timothy Bigelow plans to use ultrasound therapy to combat these biofilms on medical devices; and has chosen hernia mesh as a good candidate for a proof-of-concept example.   

“The hernia mesh will be targeted with very high intensity ultrasound that creates kind of a bubble cloud right at the focal regions,” Bigelow said. “And we will show this therapy can break up the biofilm; get it back to free-floating bacteria, where antibiotics and the immune system can take care of it.” 

Another aspect of his National Institute of Health funded project is working on developing a surgical mesh material that is easily viewable by CT and ultrasound imaging.