Tag Archives: technology

Using A 3D Printer To Plan Orthopaedic Surgery

I’ve previously written about new printing technology applications in trauma. A recent article details a new way to use 3D printing technology for planning complex orthopaedic procedures.

An orthopedic registrar in Monklands Hospital (North Lanarkshire, Scotland) found a way to combine new printing technology and orthopaedics. CT scans are routinely taken of complex fractures. Scanners now have powerful software that enables us to create 3D reconstructions from the helical or axial images. However, these are just a series of 2D images viewed on a computer monitor.

Mr. Mark Frame found a way to convert the CT information into a format that can be used as input for a 3D printer. Using two open source (free) software packages for the Mac, OsiriX and MeshLab, he was able to create a medical quality 3D image file. The file was sent to a company that printed it using a 3D printer.

The cost? About $235 US plus a little time for a complete model of the pelvis. The advantage? The actual size 3D model can be used to select hardware and practice the repair technique. And the cost to own a 3D printer keeps coming down!

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Technology: EEG Monitoring Using A Smartphone App

Remember when EEG monitoring in patients with severe TBI looked like a maze of multicolored spaghetti plugged into a small refrigerator? Well, technology is advancing rapidly and the hardware is shrinking fast.

This EEG monitor uses an EEG headset, which has fewer leads than the old standard. The headset connects to a Nokia smartphone using a wireless connection. And while it can’t compete with a regular EEG on fine detail like localizing seizure foci, it should easily be able to measure something as crude as burst suppression in trauma patients in pentobarb coma.

EEG headset

Expect more advances like this. Computing and monitoring is leaving the realm of the dedicated (and physically large) device, and moving toward handheld monitoring using off-the-shelf hardware like smartphones.

Technology: The VeinViewer

I’m always interested in technology that makes what we do easier. Here’s an objective look at an interesting machine that’s been around for a while. It uses near-infrared light to detect skin temperature changes to allow it to map out veins. It then projects an image of the map in real time onto the skin. In theory, this should make IV starts easier (as long as you can keep your head out of the way of the projector).

A paper just published from Providence, Rhode Island looked at this device to see if it could simplify IV starts in a tertiary pediatric ED. It was a prospective, randomized sample of 323 children from age 0 to 17 looking at time to IV placement, number of attempts, and pain scores.

Unfortunately, the authors did not find any differences. They found that nearly 80% of IVs were started on the first attempt with or without the VeinViewer, which is less than the literature reported 2-3 attempts. This is most likely due to the level of experience of the nurses in this pediatric ED. 

The authors did a planned subgroup analysis of the youngest patients (age 0-2) and found a modest decrease in IV start time (46 seconds) and the nurse’s perception of the child’s pain. Interestingly, the parents did not appreciate a difference in pain between the two groups. This may be due to the VeinViewer’s pretty green display acting as distraction therapy for the child.

Bottom line: This paper points out the importance of carefully reviewing all new (read: expensive at about $20,000 each) technology before blindly implementing it. In this case, an expensive peice of equipment can’t improve upon what an experienced ED nurse can already accomplish.

Reference: VeinViewer-assisted intravenous catheter placement in a pediatric emergency department. Acad Emerg Med, published online, doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2011.01155.x, 2011.

I have no financial interest in Christie Digital Systems, distributor of the VeinViewer Vision®.

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Technology: A New Teaching Tool For Orthopedic Injury

Here’s a look at some new technology (made from five pieces of old technology) to help injured patients follow their activity and exercise regimens better after injury. It allows patients to “look beneath the surface” of their injured extremity to get a better idea of what is wrong and why they need to be compliant to heal.

Microsoft Research Labs cobbled together a projection unit from a handheld projector, a digital camera and an infrared camera. The control unit consists of a wireless controller and a laser pointer. Put them together and you can superimpose stock injury images over a patient’s extremity, or review images on a wall.

Two physical therapists did an uncontrolled test on several patients and indicated that overall compliance with the therapy regimen seemed to be better. Obviously, this is not sound science. But it does have some potential in allow physicians and therapists to give a better explanation about what is injured and what needs to be done about it. In my opinion, this could be generalized to just about any internal injury, and can provide an easy to understand teaching tool for trauma professionals.

Anatomic injury projector

New Technology II: Helping Paraplegics and Quadriplegics to Walk

The second company that makes a device to assist walking in spinal cord injured patients is Berkeley Bionics. Their exoskeleton is lighter (45 pounds) and more form-fitting, making it easier to maneuver indoors. It can operate for up to 6 hours between charges. The unit does require operator assistance in the form of a pair of canes for balance.

Prices were not available for the products from both Berkeley and Rex. However, the technology looks promising for several reasons. It allows the subject to stand upright, putting weight on their feet. This helps increase muscle tone and maintain joint flexibility. It also decreases pressure problems caused by remaining seated.

These devices are in an early stage right now. As the technology advances, expect to see smaller bionics with better (smoother) computer control, and more access for people with higher spinal cord injuries.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in Berkeley Bionics.