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Biotech Innovations
October 8, 2019

Intubation Guidance Tool Earns Top Prize

JAMA. 2019;322(14):1343. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.15867

A new intubation assist device received the top prize in the Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge, a contest supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the nonprofit VentureWell. Five biomedical engineering students from Columbia University in New York City won the $20 000 award for their senior-year capstone project, the InTouch intubation guidance system.

Proper laryngoscope blade placement is critical for safe and accurate endotracheal tube insertion. In one common mistake, the tube is inserted into the esophagus, a dangerous situation in which the stomach is ventilated instead of the lungs. Video laryngoscopes, the gold standard for guided intubation, require a good understanding of anatomy and the ability to orient oneself to accurately insert the endotracheal tube. “This is especially difficult in the chaos of emergency intubations and for those who do not routinely perform the procedure,” said research team captain Amy Wu.

The new device is a laryngoscope blade equipped with force sensors that “feel” its location. Wu’s team trained the sensors using tactile patterns recorded during expert intubations by anesthesiologists on a training model. During an intubation, LED lights indicate if the blade is properly or improperly positioned for smooth insertion into the endotracheal tube. “InTouch essentially simulates expertise for nonexperts,” Wu said.

In preliminary experiments involving airway manikins, the device successfully guided novice intubists with high accuracy and speed. In the next phase of development, the team will retrain the device using expert intubation patterns from human patients with varying jaw structures.