The University of Arizona’s capstone course for seniors in engineering pairs multi-disciplinary student teams with industry sponsors seeking research and development for new devices.
At 3:30 p.m. Thursday (May 12) one of this year’s most successful teams will describe how they came up with a novel approach to a vexing clinical problem for doctors and patients dealing with proper placement of nasogastric (NG) tubes.
NG tubes are small, flexible tubes that are placed into a patient’s stomach via the nasal cavity and esophagus to deliver nutrition and medication to patients who cannot take them by mouth.
NG tubes have benefitted many people, but they can cause damage or kill if not properly placed in the stomach. It is common practice to place such a tube “blind.”
X-ray is commonly used for placement verification, but X-ray is expensive, requires training to use and is limited to a hospital setting.
The approach developed by the students verifies placement by remotely measuring acidity at the “business end” of the tube. Since our stomachs are the most acidic part of our bodies, confirming acidity serves as a good indicator of proper placement.
Working with their team sponsor, Xeridiem, a Tucson medical products company, the students found a way to correlate electrical conductivity with acidity at the end of the tube and present the result easily in real time.
The team’s mentor, Ivar Sanders, said, “This is an outstanding student team, and their project really could have an impact on saving lives while lowering health costs.”
Xeridiem has filed patent applications for this novel approach, with the engineering students named as inventors, which in Sanders’ words is “a very big deal for launching their careers.”
Prizes were awarded and the public was invited to view this year’s capstone projects at a Design Day program on campus on May 2. The NG team won the most prizes, including Best Innovation and Best Presentation. The team has also been asked to present at a conference.
Written by Ivar Sanders, Academy Village Volunteer