Surgeons have a great deal of difficulty with peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC lines) especially with small children, but thanks to one doctor’s work with LEDs, there is a light at the end of the (fiber optic) tunnel.
A PICC line delivers drugs evenly throughout a patient’s body from the core, but it starts by poking into a vein elsewhere, usually in the arm. This is particularly tricky – as in, “85% initial failure rate” tricky – with infants because they have itty bitty veins. And once the PICC line is properly inserted, doctors have to blindly guide the line through the circulatory system from the arm all the way to the heart. Any missteps during this procedure lengthens surgery time, in addition to potentially damaging the veins, the heart, and surrounding tissue.
Farhad Imam, MD, PhD came up with the idea to illuminate PICC lines while he was in training at a children’s hospital. A single LED lights up a fiber optic cable that fits into the catheter. It glows under the skin, so doctors can see its movement in real-time. And that’s not all: the diode also reacts to conditions in the body to tell a fuller story. With 2 light frequencies, the LED color changes from yellow to red as it enters deeper into the body. As it nears the heart, the increased pressure from blood flow causes the light to pulse.
This technology is currently undergoing development, but it’s already showing promise for use with both human and animal patients. Imam’s system is scheduled to clear testing by the FDA in 2013.