Product Spotlight

By Steve Barrett
Friday, January 18, 2019

Detection of Failing Shunts in Hydrocephalus Patients

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a bandage-like sensor to quickly and noninvasively detect malfunctions in implanted shunts used to drain excess fluid from the brains of hydrocephalus patients.

Almost all such shunts fail within 10 years. This can cause nausea, headaches and fatigue. Because the malfunctions are life-threatening, hydrocephalus patients with those symptoms may have to undergo MRI or a CT scan and possibly surgery to determine if a failing shunt — rather than any number of common illnesses — is the cause.

The wireless sensor gauges heat transfer and temperature to assess whether fluid is flowing and, if so, how much. The process takes five minutes from the time the sensor is placed on the skin, Northwestern states in a news release. Readings are delivered via smartphone.

Researchers hope the device will reduce healthcare costs and enhance quality of life for hydrocephalus patients.

Enhanced Drainage Device for Glaucoma

Many of the 3 million Americans with glaucoma use implanted drainage devices to relieve pressure in the eye. Scientists at Purdue University have moved this technology forward with a device that can clear itself of damaging microorganisms.

About half of conventional drainage implants cease functioning after approximately five years because of the buildup of biomaterials.

In the presence of a magnetic field, microactuators in the new device vibrate and shake loose accumulated microorganisms, Purdue states in a news release.

“We can introduce the magnetic field from outside the body at any time to essentially give the device a refresh,” says research team leader Hyowon “Hugh” Lee, an Assistant Professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and a researcher at Birck Nanotechnology Center. “Our on-demand technology allows for a more reliable, safe and effective implant for treating glaucoma.”

The team’s research appears in Microsystems and Nanoengineering.

Miniature Pacemaker for Infants

Developers of a miniature pacemaker say it will permit briefer, less invasive surgeries for infants who require the devices.

Scientists from Washington-based Children’s National Health System recently presented the prototype during the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2018.

The device is about the size of an almond. It promises to make surgery on infants less painful and to reduce medical costs, according to a news release from Children’s National.

Implantation is via a 1-centimeter incision below the rib cage, rather than the usual open-chest surgery. The average length of the procedure is less than one hour, with a median time from incision to implantation of 21 minutes. Conventional open-chest pediatric surgery can last several hours.

“By eliminating the need to cut through the sternum or the ribs and fully open the chest to implant a pacemaker ... we can cut down on surgical time and help alleviate pain,” Rohan Kumthekar, MD, a cardiology fellow at Children’s National, says in the release.