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12 Jul 2019

A tiny fibre-optic sensor with the potential to save lives in open heart surgery, and even be used during surgery on pre-term babies, is under development at Flinders University.

The new micro-medical device has the potential to surpass traditional methods used to monitor blood flow through the aorta during prolonged and often dangerous intensive care and surgical procedures – even in the tiniest of patients.

The continuous cardiac flow monitoring probe is being described as a safe way to give a real-time measurement of blood flow.

“The minimally invasive device is suitable for neonates right through to adults,” said research leader Strategic Professor John Arkwright, an expert in using fibre-optic technologies in medical diagnostics.

Professor Arkwright said the device had the potential to be a game-changer, particularly for very young babies, which are particularly susceptible to sudden drops in blood pressure and oxygen delivery to their vital organs.

“It’s a far more responsive measurement compared to traditional blood flow monitoring, and without life-threatening delays in the period ‘snapshot’ provided by current blood flow practices using ultrasound or thermo-dilution,” he said.

Neonatal expert and co-investigator Dr Scott Morris from the university said the new sensor-catheter device promises to deliver accurate blood flow information in critically ill patients, from pre-term babies to cardiac bypass patients.

“This tiny device, which could even be used in pre-term infants, 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,” Dr Morris said.

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

Chief investigator Albert Ruiz-Vargas hopes the device will be picked up for further development, and introduction into regular intensive care and surgical procedures.

“The proof-of-concept prototype is potentially a low-cost device which has passed initial testing in a heart-lung machine,” Mr Ruiz-Vargas said. 

“It can be inserted through a small keyhole aperture in the skin into the femoral artery in individuals where heart function is compromised and is so small it can even measure small changes in flow in the tiny blood vessels of infants.

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

For the first time, the Flinders researchers have found an effective model to continuously measure intra-pulse blood flow using a fibre-optic sensor which 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.

The research to-date has been published in the Journal of Biophotonics (Wiley).

 

 

 


Published: 12 Jul 2019