Researchers at Flinders University in Australia are developing a fiberoptic probe that continuously monitors blood flow using optical heating. The probe reportedly provides a safer, minimally invasive method of measuring blood flow, during prolonged and often dangerous intensive care and surgical procedures, even in tiny patients.
"The minimally invasive device is suitable for neonates right through to adults," says research leader Strategic Professor John Arkwright, who has done considerable research in fiberoptic technologies for medical diagnostics. "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."
Neonatal expert and co-investigator Dr. Scott Morris, from the Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit and Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health, says the 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 says.
A provisional 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," Dr. Ruiz-Vargas says.
The scientists believe more research is required to determine how the sensor will behave under more physiological conditions and to examine different encapsulations to comply with human safety.