SUTD students invent device to help patients who have excess fluids in their lungs

Singapore University of Technology and Design students with the Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device during the showcase of projects on Aug 3, 2016.
Singapore University of Technology and Design students with the Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device during the showcase of projects on Aug 3, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device pictured during the Singapore University of Technology and Design student showcase of projects on Aug 3, 2016.
The Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device pictured during the Singapore University of Technology and Design student showcase of projects on Aug 3, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A group of students have come up with a no-frills, low-cost device to help patients who have a build-up of excess fluids in their lungs.

The device designed by the students from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) promises to improve on the existing procedure for draining excess liquids from the lungs and is small and portable, enabling patients to use it at home.

Currently, patients with an abnormal amount of fluids in their lungs, which can be caused by a variety of diseases such as pneumonia or late stage cancer, often have to head to a hospital for the procedure. During the procedure, nurses or doctors would have to personally monitor the amount of fluids being drained as the process is not automated at any stage.

Called the Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device, it is the SUTD students' final year project, and one of 43 showcased at the university's Campus Centre on Wednesday (Aug 3).

The projects are meant to encourage students from different fields to apply the skills they learn in class to real world problems faced by real world clients.

 

Students were on hand to explain their projects, which ranged from those involving drones or indoor farming to bike-sharing applications.

Mr Ching Tsz Him, who was a member of the group member behind the Fuga device, had chanced upon the problem of chest drain procedures during his internship at Changi General Hospital. Together with his mentor there, he came up with an idea to solve the problem.

Designing the solution, however, was not as easy as thinking about it.

Recalling the challenges of his project, Mr Ching, 25, said: "The thing with medical devices is that when you design, you have to bear in mind the concern of sterilisation. You have to be able to sterilise these devices without them being compromised."

Despite the challenges, the design has been well received. A patent for the device and its process is pending.

The device features a white box with an electronic panel on top of it. The box holds a syringe connected to a three way tap. One just has to key in the amount of fluids to be drained and the speed at which it is drained and the rest becomes automated, eliminating the need for monitoring. When fluid is drained out from the lungs into the syringe, the tap will turn and direct the flow of the fluid out of the body completely, eliminating the risk of backflow.

Mr Ching said: "We wanted to design something that was low-cost, so we looked around for things that the hospital already has, such as syringes and incorporated it into the design."

The group hopes that the automated process can free up time for nurses to tend to other patients and save patients the trip to the hospital.

For some terminal patients who are kept in hospitals due to their chest fluids, this device might also allow them to spend their last days in the comfort of their own homes.