Swansea Bay therapists are contributing to a nationwide study of how to improve outcomes following tendon injury.
Finger tendons can easily be cut in everyday accidents with knives or glass, but severed tendons are not able to heal by themselves, and require surgery.
Agricultural and industrial workers with injured hands are often treated at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital, along with people injured in domestic accidents.
Now two Morriston Hospital based therapy teams are included in 25 groups across the UK taking part in the FIRST research study, aiming to identify the most effective post-operative splinting and rehabilitation regime for patients following flexor tendon injury to the fingers.
Swansea Bay’s plastic surgery occupational therapy and physiotherapy teams, along with Health and Care Research Wales Research Delivery Team, have been taking part in the multi-centre randomised control trial since January this year.
Participants in the clinical trial, the first of its kind, are allocated to a treatment group at random and the functional outcomes of their recovery are assessed over a twelve-month period.
The two Morriston Hospital teams have worked together to recruit volunteers and gather outcome data, while also gaining skills and insight into research methodology and processes.
Amanda Kyle, an advanced practitioner occupational therapist in burns and plastic surgery, has successfully undertaken the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) scheme, an initiative to widen the representation of all professionals in health and care research.
She has been supported by Morriston Hospital’s PI, plastic surgery consultant Dean Boyce, who specialises in hand and peripheral nerve surgery.
Amanda said: “Tendon injuries are quite common in the fingers because of the proximity of these structures to the skin. People sometimes have a minor laceration to their hand on a piece of glass or a knife for example, and think it will just need a few stitches but it can be much more significant than that. Cut tendons do not heal by themselves and need surgical repair.
“Morriston Hospital is unique in that the Plastic Surgery Centre is the only one in Wales. Across South Wales we have lots of manual workers in industry or agriculture, so we see a high number of these injuries, which is why we’ve been able to recruit so many people to take part.
“Most clinical trials for this type of injury are very small. This study is unique, in that it is a multi-centre trial in an effort to try and increase the numbers.”
Recruitment will continue until January 2024 with a target of 30 participants by that time. The good news for the Morriston centre is that it has already provided 20 patients for the study, prompting thanks from trial leaders as only the second site to recruit so many to the study so far.
The study outcomes will provide essential evidence on the optimal treatment regime for patients following flexor tendon injury in the future.
The research project is being led by the Pulvertaft Hand Centre in Derby and Sheffield University, and is supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).