Sensors to help nurses monitor IV drips remotely

The tiny sensor appears as a speck on a five-cent coin, and is implanted in an intravenous (IV) drip to help nurses monitor and regulate the speed of fluid flow. It is developed by researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technolo
The tiny sensor appears as a speck on a five-cent coin, and is implanted in an intravenous (IV) drip to help nurses monitor and regulate the speed of fluid flow. It is developed by researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART).ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG
The tiny sensor appears as a speck on a five-cent coin, and is implanted in an intravenous (IV) drip to help nurses monitor and regulate the speed of fluid flow.
The tiny sensor appears as a speck on a five-cent coin, and is implanted in an intravenous (IV) drip to help nurses monitor and regulate the speed of fluid flow.ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG
Inspiration for the sensors came from the blind cave fish, which has hundreds of sensory organs - called neuromasts - on its body to detect movement and pressure changes in its surroundings.
Inspiration for the sensors came from the blind cave fish, which has hundreds of sensory organs - called neuromasts - on its body to detect movement and pressure changes in its surroundings. ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG

SINGAPORE - In a few years, nurses may not need to check a patient's intravenous (IV) set-up as often as they do now.

Researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have developed a sensor that can monitor and regulate the speed of fluid flow in an IV drip.

The sensor, which is 6mm by 4mm, is implanted in the IV drip and sends a signal to a control unit which can adjust the flow speed or alert the nurses.

Dr Ajay Kottapalli, 30, postdoctoral associate at SMART and inventor of the sensor, said that, with the system, nurses need not check on the IV drip so often.

His research was published in the journal, Nature Scientific Reports, last week (Jan 14).

According to the SMART researchers, 30 per cent of a nurse's time is spent monitoring the IVs, as infusion of fluids into the body at the wrong rate can be fatal to the patient.

Nurses now control the rate of flow through a roller-clamp, which has to be adjusted periodically.

The new sensor, which is able to detect even small flow changes, costs less than $1. It has to be disposed after use .

The researchers, who started work on the sensor in 2014, plan to commercialise it for use in hospitals in two to three years' time.

The sensor was inspired by the blind cave fish, which has hundreds of sensory organs - called neuromasts - on its body to detect movement and pressure changes in its surroundings.

Dr Kottapalli said: "With the sensor, we hope to reduce the burden on the nurses and offer a cheaper alternative technology."

xueqiang@sph.com.sg