Design: The Millennium Collection

No 2: `Reveal' surgical gloves designed by biogel
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
So far, over 200 Millennium Products have been chosen for their excellent design. Each week we will examine one of them.

A GAME with a couple of party balloons has led to the development of a product that could save the lives of hospital patients and, potentially, their doctors, too.

Pam and Phil Richardson, a former nurse and former university lecturer from Wales, have come up with a simple innovation to make surgical gloves change colour when punctured.

A glove punctured during an operation by a slip of the scalpel poses risks of cross-infection to both patient and doctor.

Surgeons who are carriers of hepatitis have infected patients in this way, (although rules require that they be vaccinated against it) and, in one case, a patient in France was infected with HIV by a surgeon carrying the virus.

Surgeons are in turn at risk of being infected themselves if blood from the patient seeps into their wound.

The new surgical gloves, called Reveal, are made by Biogel. They consist of two layers of latex. The top outer layer is transparent and the inner layer is green. If the top layer is punctured, liquid is drawn between the layers by capillary action revealing the green layer beneath like a spreading stain.

As soon as this appears, the surgeon can request new gloves. Sensitivity is unaffected by the double layer.

Pam Richardson said: "It's an incredibly simple idea that you can demonstrate at a party with two balloons. Indeed, we discovered the principle when experimenting with toy balloons. It was then we realised its potential for surgery."

The Richardsons have found thinking up ideas in their Welsh cottage a lucrative hobby. They have patented the same system as a mail security device to indicate whether a package has been tampered with. If the material in which the package is wrapped is punctured, allowing air between the layers, it immediately changes colour.