The media tends to give drones a bad name. And certainly, there are careless operators out there who may give drone operators a bad name. But it seems that everyone is getting in the game. Amazon wants to use drones to deliver your orders. Police use them to find missing people, and criminals. Parks use them to protect animals and property.
But how about some medical uses? Sure, they can be used to access austere environments, and potentially to deliver medical supplies. But here is an example of a very creative use. It’s an AED drone!
This drone was designed from the ground up to provide emergency assistance for cardiac arrest. It’s got audio, video, and is a flying defibrillator. Watch this 3 minute video to see how it works and how it was made.
A number of surgical disciplines use antibiotic beads to deliver antimicrobial drugs to sites that may not have ideal serum penetration. Unfortunately, beads require multiple operations for placement and replacement until the desired effect is achieved.
What if there was a way of delivering antimicrobial therapy directly to the tissues that works for up to two weeks, then dissolves with no trace? A system that does this is being developed by engineers at Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Urbana. They created a small magnesium coil that can be heated using magnetic induction. It is enclosed in a silk pocket and then implanted into the infected tissues.
The tissues surrounding the device can be heated to different temperatures by placing an induction coil over it and delivering a specific amount of power.
It is also possible to deliver antibiotic doses directly to the tissue by embedding the drug into the silk pocket. As the coil heats up, the antibiotic is released from the fabric.
The magnesium coil normally dissolves within a few hours when immersed in water, and it takes a bit longer when in direct contact with living tissue. The silk pocket prolongs the time to dissolution, depending on how thick it is. In the rat experiment described in the paper, there was little or no trace after 15 days.
Bottom line: This exciting technology has the potential to simplify the delivery of antimicrobial therapy directly to deeper tissues for extended periods, without the need for a second procedure to retrieve the device. We’ll see how this implant works in studies in larger animals. I’m sure other derivative applications are soon to follow.
Reference: Silk-based resorbable electronic devices for remotely controlled therapy and in vivo infection abatement. Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences. Published online November 24, 2014.
Coming Technology: Stop Abdominal Bleeding With Foam
Foam is used for everything. Firefighting. Impact resistance. Law enforcement. Now a company working with DARPA has developed a foam to slow intra-abdominal bleeding until the patient can get to a definitive care hospital. This concept has been used successfully in pigs and slows uncontrolled liver hemorrhage, increasing survival from 7% to 72%.
It is hoped that the foam can be used in the battlefield, and is simple enough to be administered by a combat medic. A small plastic trochar is introduced into the abdominal cavity and two liquids are injected, like epoxy. They react and fill the abdomen with foam, which slows active bleeding.
Like so many military innovations, this may ultimately work its way down to urban EMS units for use in penetrating trauma. Keep an eye on this interesting technology.
New Technology: Help Brain Injured Patients To Talk
It is can be extremely difficult to communicate with some brain injured patients. Many have global damage that precludes the processing necessary to formulate thoughts. However, some may be able to think but can’t effectively make themselves understood. Patients with the “locked in” syndrome are a perfect example.
A company called NeuroVigil has developed technology and data analysis techniques for extracting a wealth of information from a single-channel EEG. The iBrain system uses two sensors that do not require being stuck to the head with adhesive. A simple elastic band can hold them in place.
Last year, the company fitted the device on Stephen Hawking to begin testing and training the system to assist with his communication efforts. Currently, Hawking uses an IR sensor that detects twitches in his cheek. These are painstakingly translated into letters and then words that are spoken by a computer. The iBrain system is being trained to recognize words via his EEG patterns and should speed up his communication with the outside world.
If this technology pans out, it may be used to communicate with moderate to severely injured TBI patients who have expressive language problems. It could also be used to test for and communicate with patients who are “locked in.”
The video was recorded at TEDMED 2009. Much of the key information is presented beginning at 10:10 into the video.
All healthcare professionals are notoriously bad about washing their hands, especially doctors. A variety of things have been developed to help us keep our hands clean, including simple soap and water, barriers like gloves, and various gels and foams (which I swear I can taste in my mouth 10 minutes later, even though I’m pretty sure I’m not putting my fingers there).
A recently published paper from China is shining new light on this topic (get it?). Researchers developed a hand-held, battery-powered plasma flashlight that gets rid of bacteria on skin in a flash. It costs less than $100 to produce and runs on a 12V battery.
This device was found to inactivate all bacteria in a 17-layer biofilm containing a very hardy organism, enterococcus faecalis. It does not produce UV radiation, and the exact mechanism for the bacterocidal effect is unclear. There was no adverse effect on skin.
The main drawbacks to this device are that it only produces a small area of plasma, and it takes 5 minutes to kill all the bacteria. But take this to the next logical step. Many of you are familiar with the Dyson Airblade hand dryers found at many airports. Suppose you could produce a more intense plasma field using a more robust power supply (power line or ambulance power system) in a device that you could just pass your hands through to disinfect them?
And if you really want to improve compliance, hook the unit to the door control so the doctor can’t even walk into a patient room without passing his hands through it!
Reference: Inactivation of a 25.5µm Enterococcus faecalis biofilm by a room-temperature, battery-operated, handheld air plasma jet. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 45(2012):165205 (5p), 2012.
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