Anti-Infective Devices in Otolaryngology: Current Applications and Future Opportunities
Otorhinolaryngology, the medical specialty focused on the anatomic regions of the ear, nose, and throat (ENT), represents a sizeable and sig nificant market for implanted devices that are specifically designed to resist postoperative infection. Obviously, the mouth and nose constitute two readily-accessible passageways for pathogens to invade our natural defenses. As a result of this invasion, infections may arise within one or more of a number of tissues, glands, cavities, etc., if our natural defense mechanisms have been compromised. The presence of surgicallyimplanted devices-often inserted to assist the body in combating chronic disease-unfortunately represents an “unnatural” compromise to our host defenses for at least two reasons. In some cases (e.g., a trans-tympanic ventilation tube, as discussed below), an implant may “breach” the body’s physical barrier and provide opportunistic pathogens a new entryway into the body. In most instances, however, implants represent “foreign” surfaces that-in the most simplistic terms-may serve to harbor and promote pathogenic infection. For these reasons, implants available to the ENT surgeon are exceptionally susceptible to post-implantation infection and, therefore, represent a substantial opportunity for anti-infective materials and designs.