George T. Rodeheaver Jane Haley

Burn victims suffer a unique agony. The pain of their injury is compounded by the rigorous cleansing required to ward off infection, a common and often fatal complication.

The work of George T. Rodeheaver, a professor in the UVA Department of Plastic Surgery, has provided a new balm for patients with burns and chronic wounds. He has developed a topical treatment called PluroGel that thickens at high temperatures and liquefies at cooler temperatures. Because the ointment is easily removed by cool water, treatment is much less painful than current alternatives.

Rodeheaver, who also is director of UVA’s Wound Healing Research Laboratory, received the 2008 Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year Award from the University Patent Foundation. After 36 years at the University and more than 200 journal articles, Rodeheaver says he continues to enjoy pushing forward on the frontiers of science.

The gel has had a dramatic impact on treatment, Rodeheaver says. “In our burn center, we have been able to eliminate infection, which was the leading cause of death 15 years ago. And we have had great success in healing chronic wounds, many of which [with traditional remedies] had not healed for numerous years,” he says.

Chronic wounds include diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers and venous leg ulcers.

An estimated 2,000 patients treated at the UVA Health System have benefited from the invention. For now, the treatment is available only at the University hospital, but Rodeheaver is seeking Federal Drug Administration approval so that the product can be made commercially available throughout the country.