New sensor to monitor IVs will lessen nurses' burden

The sensor, which is able to detect even small flow changes, costs less than $1. It is implanted in the IV drip.
The sensor, which is able to detect even small flow changes, costs less than $1. It is implanted in the IV drip.ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG

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.

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

His research was published in the journal, Nature Scientific Reports, last week.

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."

Pang Xue Qiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'New sensor to monitor IVs will lessen nurses' burden'. Print Edition | Subscribe