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We are truly fortunate to live in an age where there seems to be no shortage of remarkable advancements in medical technology. Every day, scientists across the globe are making huge strides in everything from cancer research to robotic walkers. At the same time, we continue to see patients needlessly suffer and die due to negligent medical care or technological failings.
Encouragingly, a new medical technology with the potential to drastically improve patient safety was recently announced at a conference held just last month.
At the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers from the University of Michigan announced that they were currently developing a so-called “smart catheter” that could be inserted into either blood vessels or the urinary tract, and which could help prevent the onset of potentially deadly infections.
The presenting researcher indicated that the smart catheter is designed to monitor changes in the pH level around the catheter insertion site. Specifically, when bacteria begin to form a sticky layer on or around the catheter and are spreading — causing a detectable change in the pH level — the catheter will activate.
Once activated, the smart catheter will then release nitric oxide (NO), an antibiotic substance, which will disrupt the bacteria layer and stop the spread of the infection.
What makes the smart catheter different from other bacteria-fighting catheters currently on the market is that it automatically shuts off after the pH balance is restored, thereby saving its NO reserves. Other bacteria-fighting catheters simply release antibiotic substances continuously, necessitating frequent refills.
The true value of technology such as the smart catheter becomes more readily apparent when you consider a few of the statistics provided by researchers: There are roughly 1.5 million hospital-acquired infections in the U.S. every year, and that these infections result in 99,000 fatalities and roughly $45 billion in additional health care costs.
The simple truth though is that the smart catheter is likely many years from becoming standard hospital equipment. Accordingly, medical staff must remain vigilant, and take all precautions to protect their patients from deadly — and largely preventable — infections.
Source: Medical News Today, “‘Smart catheter’ developed for prevention of catheter-related infections,” Grace Rattue, Aug. 27, 2012;