Today’s Solutions: June 30, 2022

Intubation is a drastic yet necessary procedure that medical professionals perform to open patients’ airways. While it can be a real lifesaver, intubation is difficult to perform, and sometimes the tube can be placed incorrectly. 

A specialized, 3D-printed device with a small wireless camera attachment could make intubation safer and easier for the medical professional performing the procedure. 

Seeing in the dark 

“Current state-of-the-art devices have limitations,” Kenneth Hiller, an anesthesiologist in private practice says. “Placing an endotracheal tube can be challenging in a significant number of patients’ airways. For years, I’ve mulled over what I’d like in a device that can simplify the process and improve patient safety.”

He approached an engineering design team at Rice University to see if they could build what he had in mind. 

“He wanted a video laryngoscope that not only had wireless video but also had a better blade profile,” Victoria Kong of the engineering team said. “There are two main types of laryngoscopes: straight blades and with curved blades, and all of the video laryngoscopes on the market are in the curved blade format. While that’s great for compressing the tongue to get it out of the way, it has a very high displacement volume. It takes up a lot of room in the mouth.

“That makes it very difficult for the physician to insert the endotracheal tube to give the patient air,” said Kong. “The straight blade gives you a more direct line of sight. We wanted to combine the stabilization afforded by curved blades and a straight-blade profile, and we did that by tapering our blade.”

Hiller asked the design team to make something under $500, way below what the team thought would be feasible. Still, they came up with something they believe will cost under $200. 

They finished the design, and it seems to meet all of Hiller’s requirements. It even has an LED light near the camera that the user can control with a switch and improve their visibility. 

Helping doctors now and in the future

Other intubation devices do have video devices on them, enabling the medical professional performing the procedure to see, but all of these have wires attached to them, limiting the range of motion of the professional. 

“Having the screen attached makes the scope more delicate and harder to transport from room to room,” Rebecca Franklin of the team said. “Having the video accessible on a tablet means a doctor in another room can watch and give feedback about the technique to the airway manager performing the actual procedure.”

The students say they anticipate future refinements to include stainless steel construction for durability. They also see uses for the device beyond the clinic. It could be used by EMTs or military medics, who might not have the required experience yet, and could be a great learning tool for future lifesavers.

Source Study: Rice University News and Media Relations Inspired students make intubation more intuitive | Rice News | News and Media Relations | Rice University

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