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Blood flow monitor to save lives during surgery

Photo Credit: Flinders University

Lives can be saved in open heart surgery thanks to a tiny fibre-optic sensor. The device can also be used during surgery on pre-term babies.

According to a recent press release, the continuous cardiac flow monitoring probe is a safe way to give a real-time measurement of blood flow.

Delivering accurate blood flow information

Under development at Australia’s Flinders University, the new micro-medical device could surpass traditional methods used to monitor blood flow through the aorta during prolonged and often dangerous intensive care and surgical procedures, even applicable in the tiniest of patients.

The minimally invasive device is suitable for neonates right through to adults.

According to the research leader, who is an expert in using fibre-optic technologies in medical diagnostics, the device has the potential to be a game-changer.

This is particularly applicable for very young babies, who are susceptible to sudden drops in blood pressure and oxygen delivery to their vital organs.

The device is a far more responsive measurement compared to traditional blood flow monitoring.

Moreover, the updates are provided without life-threatening delays in the period ‘snapshot’ supplied by current blood flow practices using ultrasound or thermo-dilution.

According to the co-investigator, who is a neonatal expert from the Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit and the University’s College of Medicine and Public Health, the new sensor-catheter device promises to deliver accurate blood flow information on critically ill patients.

The patients covered are from pre-term babies to cardia bypass patients.

This tiny device has the potential to be far superior to the intermittent measure of averaged blood flow delivered by traditional methods which generally only show time averaged flow every 30 minutes or so.

A provision patent has been filed for the device, which is seeking industry partners for further development.

The Chief Investigator hopes that the device will be picked up for further development, and introduction into regular intensive care and surgical procedures.

Benefits of the device

He added that the proof-of-concept prototype is potentially a low-cost device, which has passed initial testing in a heart-lung machine.

It can be inserted through a small keyhole aperture in the skin, into the femoral artery in individuals, where heart function is compromised.

Furthermore, the device is so small it can even measure small changes in flow in the tiny blood vessels of infants.

It is a simple design, which can give readouts similar to a pulsating heartbeat response on a laptop or nearby screen.

The researchers from the University have found an effective model to continuously measure intra-pulse blood flow using a fibre-optic sensor and LED technology to measure temperature variations for the first time.

This has the potential to advance monitoring in a medical setting.

They say more research is now required to determine how the sensor will behave under more physiological conditions and to examine different encapsulations to comply with human safety.

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