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Novel Alarm Designed To Improve Patient Safety
August 21, 2017

A multidisciplinary team from the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering and the VCU School of Medicine wants to make it impossible to leave a wire inside the body accidentally during common medical procedures.

The team has designed a novel alarm to improve safety when placing a central venous catheter, a tube that goes into a large vein to give blood or medications. Typically, physicians and other clinicians first insert a wire, then slide the catheter over this “guidewire.” W. Paul Murphy, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology in the VCU School of Medicine, said that the guidewire is accidentally left behind in one of 3,000 procedures.

Inadvertently leaving anything inside a patient during any procedure is a serious but preventable complication, labeled a “never event” by federal insurers. These never events are publicly reported and costly in terms of dollars, patients and reputations.

Murphy is collaborating with Bennett Ward, Ph.D., associate professor at the VCU School of Engineering, and Hilton Bennett, a graduate student at VCU’s da Vinci Center. The project, dubbed “No Wire Left Behind,” was recently awarded research funding to develop the device through VCU’s Quest Commercialization Fund, which is dedicated to advancing VCU inventions and boosting their chances of getting to the market.

Bennett said that the team’s current design, a clip with lights and a buzzer, attaches to the wire to serve as a constant reminder to the physician or clinician that the wire is inside the patient’s body. Over the summer, Bennett is working on designing the mold for the device and developing prototypes out of different materials.

In addition to improving patient care, Bennett said that preventing this type of problem would help hospitals, which bear the financial liability and cost associated with such serious reportable events.

This article reprinted from materials provided by Virginia Commonwealth University.

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