Once in a lifetime we have all faced the fear of injection, an object with a needle that pierced through out skin and veins to inject medicine directly into bloodstream. Some of screamed and ran out while a few of us gathered some courage and faced the devil bravely. But during all that hide and chase we all hoped and believed the needle hit its exact target. While the lucky ones had it right in first go, there are some who faced the agony of wrong penetration. Also, as the surgeries are getting more and more complex these days, the doctors need to guide the needles precisely for entering multiple tissue layers. There is and should be no room for errors, unfortunately, they do miss their target sometimes. The consequences of such mistakes can be dangerous or fatal in some cases.
In order to mitigate such risks, a team of researchers working in Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT recently developed an optical sensor capable of being inserted in the epidural needles. The sensor will help the doctors in guiding the path of needle to its exact destination reducing guesswork and turning operations more successful and safer. The sensor, basically, uses a new technique called the Raman spectroscopy that determines that chemical properties of a tissue. It uses laser light for measuring energy shifts that come through molecular vibrations. The reflected laser light can recognize various molecules via their chemical fingerprints – a unique energy shift pattern that is produced by every chemical.
The properties and characteristics that are measured through this method (like concentration of collagen, triolein, albumin, actin, and phosphatidylcholine) are then analyzed in identification of different tissue layers in the patient’s body. With respect to epidural, the needle needs to penetrate five different tissue layers that includes skin, fat, interspinous ligament, supraspinous ligament, and the ligamentum flavum. Unless you have correct idea of what tissue the needle tip is located in you cannot know the right spot where target needs to be hit. This is where the smart needle helps you.
A few other sensors were tested by this team but they were able to differentiate between just eight layers that surrounded the epidural space. With the help of Raman spectroscopy, on can differentiate between all eight layers with accurate precision. Jeanine Wiener-Konish, the chief Anesthetist at MGH says, “The era of blind procedures is one we need to move away from, because we’re very interested in improving safety and quality. This sensor could allow us to take a fairly blind procedure and be able to get more information about where the needle is.”
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